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MUSIC Album reviews with Steve Johnson

 

Harriet Riley and Alex Garden:
Sonder
(Self-release)
★★★★

This an intriguing album from a West Country-based duo with Riley playing vibraphone and Garden playing the violin supported by bassist Steve Toddler. Entirely instrumental the 12 tracks are all original compositions with a strong jazz influence.

What makes the album unusual is that each track has a title in different languages but with a meaning explained. The title track is defined as the realisation that each passerby is living a life as rich and complex as your own.

This thematic thread runs throughout with the first track Vellichor celebrating the strange wistfulness of bookshops while the Russian title Toska expresses the longing for the need to escape but lacking the energy to do so.It is almost as though words are unnecessary and the instruments just explain the meaning to the listener.

 

Dan O’Farrell and The Difference Engine
Richard Scarry Lied to Me
(Gare du Nord Records)
★★★★

This third album from politically motivated “snark-folkabilly” singer-songwriter Dan O’Farrell and his band takes its title from US children’s author Richard Scarry who wrote comforting books depicting visions of animals working in a harmonious world.

But the lead single I am Afraid takes us through a nightmare world of fears about everything from war and fascism to developing Alzheimer’s. In other words, Richard Scarry lied about the world being fair when it seems broken beyond repair.

However, amidst the serious message there is also an upbeat tone to the music with a bossa-nova feel to What Do I Know. Political themes are to the fore in Extinction Man and No Deal but there is also a dark sense of humour expressed in Resignation Song with its bald man at the barber’s line.

A deadly serious album but which is also fun to listen to.
 

 

Edgelarks
Henry Martin
Self-released
★★★★

Folk duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin now known as Edgelarks started to put this sixth studio album together when lockdown interrupted their 2020 spring tour.  

Composed entirely of traditional songs the overall theme of the songs chosen is overcoming difficulties, particularly relevant in these Covid times.

The source for many of the songs is Peter Kennedy’s Folk Songs of the British Isles starting with the opening Greenwood Laddie, here given an up-tempo treatment. Love and Bolts is about forbidden love with the theme of imprisonment also seeming relevant during lockdown.

The title track itself is about adventure on the high seas and The Deluded Lover pays homage to the folk-rock sound of groups like The Bothy Band.

With great vocals and harmonica playing this is an uplifting album which can provide comfort in these troubled times but also hope for something better to come.

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