Wednesday, 1 July 2015

THE CHANGING ROOM

CD Review

Behind The Lace

There is so much to enjoy about this album it's hard to know where to start. Behind The Lace is a really polished collection and the tracks have an innate quality, a bit like when you see a musical instrument that has been hand built, you can just smell the craftmanship that's gone into it. 

The Changing Room
Having Boo Hewerdine's fingerprints all over it too is like a musical hallmark.
The character in Sam Kelly's voice is astonishing, he produces the sort of singing which you could listen to all day long. His enthusiasm and friendly tone means he could sing the ingredients and instructions from a frozen meal packet and it would be worth hearing. Of course the supply of quality songs is mostly down to Tanya Brittain who produces some incredible, stirring and emotive lyrics which can lift the spirit, soothe the soul and scare the living daylights out of you in equal measure.
As stand alone artists they are top class, put them together and you don't stand a chance of not falling under their spell.
Hal-An-Tow has both the traditional and big production feel to it. Kelly's singing takes the lead but you get a flavour of co-writer Brittain's harmonising skills.
Another notable quality of TCR is that although they are officially a duo, the band seems, like the universe, to be ever expanding.
It seems for the sake of the song they will draft anyone they can get their hands on and you end up with an album packed to the rafters with great instrumentals and incidentals which all make the whole that little bit special.
Without doubt I'll Give You My Voice, wonderfully written by Brittain, is one of the most beautiful and emotionally charged songs you are likely to hear. If you don't listen to this with a lump in your throat then you must be made of stone. Kelly's voice has a vulnerable quality which just adds another emotional strand to the song.
It's very likely it is destined to be picked up by other folk musicians and will soon be doing the circuits. The Journeyman has a distinct ethnic feel to it and the banjo playing of Jamie Francis adds fantastic musical gems along the path Kelly treads with his voice.
Jon Cleave
On the gentle ballad Through The Mill, Kelly does have the quality of another great voice from the other end of the country. His slight warble and gentle execution reminds of Ewan McLennan. Coming from somewhere in between are the atmospheric brass sounds of Chris Spreadbury and Lauren Caroll. You have to admit it, there isn't a track on this album where you don't get your money's worth.
Kelly and Brittain take a back seat for Wreckers giving way to Jon Cleave from Fisherman's Friends to take centre stage. Cleave sings with a tone which sounds like it comes from the bottom of one of the old local tin mines. He creates a dark, mischievous atmosphere for the sort of people who wait for shipwrecks to claim the booty before the authorities know about it or can stop them. It's almost a modern pirate song.
A River Runs Between is almost the flipside of Wreckers is has an ethereal quality provided by Jennifer Crook on harp. The tune has a swaying, hypnotic rhythm which unnervingly brings back memories of The Wicker Man.
If you wanted a song to sum up the heritage and spirit of Cornwall you would be hard pressed to do better than Row Boys Row, you can almost smell the salt air as Kelly sings, and even the cadence and rhythm matches the unceasing movement of the sea which relentlessly batters the Cornish coast and supplies it with sardines.
The new album
Brittain comes out of the shadows for the title track. Her singing matches her songwriting skills. She has a real depth to her meaty voice and reminds very much of a gentler version of the incredible June Tabor.
The narrative of this song is pretty deep while at the same time being very subtle and yet scratch the surface and, like all good folk songs, there is that dark interior.
Tim Ashton takes the lead for Final Breath and it does sort of stick out like a sore thumb. Although composed by Kelly and Brittain the style doesn't really seem in keeping with the rest of the album. This is not to say there is anything wrong with it, the fast-paced, hill billy style sound is as good as any on the album it just comes as a bit of a shock to the ear.
The final track brings Kelly back to the fore. This is a stripped down and indulgently gentle ballad where Kelly's singing has again that vulnerability in bucket loads.
TCR is a bit like an entity changing and shifting in shape and personnel as the songs and tunes dictate ,but at the heart of it all is the incredible talent of Kelly and Brittain who write and sing songs that get under your skin, or into your emotions and refuse to let you go until you have heard the last note.