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Music Album reviews with Steve Johnson: June 24, 2024

New releases from Harbottle and Jonas, Naomi Bedford and Paul Simmonds, and Angeline, Cohen and John

Harbottle and Jonas
Wild Goose
(Brook View Records)

★★★★★

 

 

THIS seventh album by David Harbottle and Freya Jonas consists of eight original songs exploring themes of nature, spirituality and societal change.

The opening track Carry on You Fishermen deals with a traditional folk theme of a woman searching for the lover who has deserted her. This is followed by Loki a new take on the ancient Norse god of mischief.

The title track was written as a lullaby for their daughter Rosalie but expresses a desire to maintain a connection with the outside environment, while Travelling Family Band is based on the duo’s experience of life on the road, and the news that their family is to have a new addition is explored in the next track God’s Idea.

The album ends with Where Do You Stand? challenging us to seek out new patterns of behaviour in response to societal shifts.

A short but exquisite collection of songs.

Naomi Bedford and Paul Simmonds
Strange News Has Come to Town
(Dusty Willow Recordings)

★★★★★

 

 

STARTED before lockdown this fourth album by Naomi Bedford and Paul Simmonds of The Men They Couldn’t Hang takes us on a journey through that period and some of the other tribulations of the world we currently inhabit. 

The opening track Optimist does indeed give a message of hope despite the dark times and this is followed by Happiness is a Way of Travelling with an upbeat tone. But there are also lockdown-based themes in I’ve Got a Fever and Opposite Day which takes us on an odyssey through “post-truth” Britain.

A blend of folk, country and Americana, the traditional A Blacksmith Courted Me sits alongside Asylum telling the tragic tale of three would-be migrants, and Lewiston Factory Girls deals eloquently with workers’ exploitation. 

But the album ends on a hopeful note with the rural ballad The Lapwing’s Call signifying, perhaps, the start of Spring at the end of lockdown. 

Angeline, Cohen and John
Grace Will Lead Me Home
(Invisible Folk)

★★★★

 

 

THIS collaboration between Angeline Morrison, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne and Jon Bickley is a commemorative album to mark the 250th anniversary of the writing of Amazing Grace and the 300th anniversary of its writer John Newton. 

While I’ve always been sceptical of the redemption theme in the former-slave-trader-turned-abolitionist narrative, the song has inspired people in civil rights struggles. Starting with Dear Polly, based on Newton’s letters to his wife, we then get Press-Gang Song dealing with the realities of the brutal trade he was engaged in.

The Choir Still Sings Amazing Grace looks at present-day racism and the murder of Stephen Lawrence, while Sorry deals with the need to come to terms with our history. With two different versions of the song itself, along with the civil rights anthem Eyes on the Prize, this album is summed up by the words “how sweet the sound.”

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