TRACY CURTIS – Live (Irregular Records IRR121)

LiveTracey Curtis used to be in a punk band called Shelley’s Children, she plays guitar, sings and writes songs and that’s about all I can tell you about her, which is probably all you need to know. Live was recorded at the Railway Inn, Portslade and, as any release by Irregular Records is never less than interesting, I got it in the player as soon as I could. It’s a raw, stripped down record with the only support being the audience, especially the three “volunteer” dancers. Look, you just have to listen to it, OK.

Tracey starts with ‘I Won’t Wear The Union Jack’ which is a song about patriotism, more particularly the two distinctive kinds of patriotism exhibited by the right and the left. That is followed by ‘Don’t Sit Silently’, about the need for protest and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in for an hour of agit-prop. But no. ‘Shell Shock’ has that kind of title but it’s a tender song dedicated to the soldiers who were executed in the Great War. Tracey tells it from the point of view of the mother of one of the soldiers and serves to introduce theme of family which runs through the album.

‘Cody And Esta’s Love Song’ was written about Tracey’s twin girls – she has five daughters – and her introduction and explanation is almost as long as the song itself, which draws an ‘aah’ from the crowd. Next is the quirky ‘Uncle David Essex’ about her aunt who once went out with David Essex but married someone else. You really have to listen to it for the full effect but by now you don’t know what to expect next as Tracey switches between themes.

‘How Do They Do The Things They Do?’ is about torture and ‘I Should Have Kept It Simple’ is about Tracey’s shortcomings when it came to home-schooling – this is where the dancers appear – but they are linked by the idea of children and education. ‘The Vegan Police’ is back to humour while ‘First Riot’ is about youth and the loss of innocence during the miners’ strike, bringing us back to earth with a bump. ‘The John Peel Song’ is a sort of memorial to the great man and a reminder that celebrities are people, too (well, the good ones are). ‘Jeremy Corbyn And The Ice Cream Dream’ is another track you have to hear in full, including the introduction and I’ll keep saying that until you do.

‘Leonardo, Percy, Leo, Albert And Robb’ is a list of celebrated vegetarians – Robb Johnson gets the benefit of celebrity here – and is serious in a jocular way. ‘Where Are They Now?’ is for asylum seekers, the successful ones anyway, ‘Miners Against Fascism’ is deadly serious; a potted history of leftist activism and her encore, ‘Raising Girls And Boys’, is a clarion call for good parenting.

Tracey’s songwriting has a light touch. She can talk about serious and sometimes painful subjects without ranting and keep her audience thoroughly entertained while doing so. Live is maybe a bit ramshackle here and there with Tracey commenting on things that we can’t see but rather that than sanitised “live” albums that might just as well have been recorded in the studio with some applause dubbed on.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘I Should Have Kept It Simple’ – live so you can see the dancing:

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