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Album Reviews With Michal Boncza An unmistakable joie de vivre

Michal Boncza reviews ablums by Skerryvore, Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy, and Steven Schofield

Skerryvore
Evo
(Tyree Records)
★★★★★

THE ADMIRABLE thing about the “Skerries” is their consistency in creating memorable songs that radiate an unmistakable joie de vivre, whatever their tempo or lyrics.

Evo — short for evolution — is their sixth album and the octet in full musical flight is simply awesome. The sound is delivered with a superb virtuosity in the arrangements that must rate among the most inventive and ebullient of the genre.

That’s notable even before Alec Dalglish belts out: “Paradise is where your people are,” on At the End of the Line or the goose-pimple inducing Take My Hand.

Skerryvore impressively reconfigure traditional constructs by shifting the emphasis between instruments, where accordion, pipes, whistles, fiddle and guitar are layered over innovatory bass and drums.

This meeting of Highland folk and urban rock is most evidently a loving one. Long may it continue.

 

Steven Schofield
Subversion
(Stoneferry Music)
★★★★

 

CAPITALISM most certainly pisses off Steven Schofield and on Subversion he pinpoints its obscenities in lyrics that are intelligently belligerent.
 
The shanty Shadowlands and Shifting Sands takes up the Morecambe Bay tragedy of migrant Chinese workers and its strong arrangements suit Schofield's sonorously deep, if slightly declamatory, voice to perfection.
 
Lock Out shifts towards rock to emphasise the drama when Jim Ratcliffe, owner of Grangemouth oil refinery, invites his workers to “kiss his arse” over pay demands.
 
The mournful vocals, layered over an evocative cornet on In Memoriam, address the collective amnesia during Remembrance Day about the consequences of Western imperialism.
 
Although Orator Hunt — who spoke at Peterloo in Manchester 1819 when crowds were massacred by government diktat — is perhaps too monotonous and low-key for its spirit of resistance, it's redeemed by the rousing lines: “Gather comrades and friends/gather again for orator Hunt.”

Well worth a listen.

 

Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy with The Gift Band
Anchor
(Topic Records)
★★★★★

DEDICATED followers of the Norma Waterson-Eliza Carthy mother-and-daughter act will be shifted out of their comfort zone by Anchor.

A charming melange of reinterpreted songs — among them Tom Waits’s Strange Weather, Kurt Weill’s classic Lost In The Stars, Nick Lowe’s The Beast In Me, the trad The Elfin Knight and Scarborough Fair and KT Tunstall’s Shanty of the Whale — are all the more engrossing for being so engagingly eclectic.

The traditional and contemporary are deconstructed and reconfigured by the pair’s phenomenal interpretative skills and voices that, solo or in duet, mesmerise musically as they emanate a reassuringly warm world-weariness and the right measure of melancholy.

Hats off to The Gift Band’s beautifully measured support of meandering, shifting and beautifully accented tempos that embroider the voices so memorably .

Without doubt — an achievement of rare musical quality.

 

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