Saturday, 6 August 2016

THE CHANGING ROOM

CD Review

Picking Up The Pieces


Last year The Changing Room released their first full album, Behind The Lace, which was a cracker of a disc, not least because of the distinctive and emotive singing of Sam Kelly and the incredibly moving lyrics of Tanya Brittain whose composition, I'll Give You My Voice, was without doubt one of the highlights of 2015.

Sam Kelly and Tanya Brittain
So they have set themselves a high benchmark for their new album which features, reassuringly, the old team but this time with the help of Belinda O'Hooley and John McCusker. Along with Jamie Francis, Evan Carson, Morrigan Palmer Brown and Boo Hewerdine TCR have come up with another totally enjoyable collection of songs including some sung in their native Cornish.
The songs on the album show a great collection of musicians but what is becoming obvious is the solid talent of Brittain and Kelly as a really impressive songwriting team.
This album carries pretty much the same character as its predecessor where once again the songs drip with local folklore, history and soul. The opener Caradon Hill is about the harsh life faced by miners and their families. Straight away the listener is introduced to the trembling sound of Kelly’s voice with Brittain providing the harmony on the refrains. There is a lovely strand of colour added by McCusker on the whistle. There is a great beat to Zephaniah Job as they change roles with Brittain taking centre stage and Kelly taking the role on harmonies. Carson provides the percussion which drives the song about the character who is a man who can and not always in a legitimate way. McCusker’s fiddle opens the slower track, The Grayhound with Francis laying down gems on the banjo underneath Kelly’s warm tones. 
From left Morrigan Palmer Brown,
Tanya Brittain, Sam Kelly,
Jamie Francis and Evan Carson.
The Changing Room
The song tells the tale of the ship, its crew and their questionable activities. Brittain sings the ballad Bal Maiden’s Waltz which is a lovely, layered song with Kelly providing the harmonies and the distinct picking of the cittern which is all caught up in the flowing strings of both McCusker and McGuire.
This gives way to the haunting sound of Gwrello Glaw (Let It Rain) which is sung beautifully in Cornish by Kelly. The song is given centre stage as the musicians around him willingly take a backseat while providing the tapestry of sound which makes the track so memorable. The band pick up the pace for The Cinder Track which has very much the feel of Americana with Francis’ banjo adding real character.
This is among the best tracks on the album and is likely to get toes tapping along. Koh-I-Noor, written by Hewerdine, is performed by a stripped down version of the band with just Kelly, Brittain and Francis providing the impressive sounds of what is quite a sombre track.
The full line up return for the second of the songs in Cornish. Kelly and Brittain bring the light tune to life with their voices.
The tune is extremely pleasant and made all the more so by the gentle plucking of Palmer Brown as her harp adds flashes of musical interest throughout.
There is a definite mountain sound to Tie ‘Em Up which is a song about being sold out.
There is a harsher Fisherman’s Friend style from Kelly with Francis giving a strong bluegrass-style beat on the banjo.
The new album
Another haunting song comes from Brittain and Kelly who is this time accompanied solely by O’Hooley on the piano where her precise notes add a definite depth of character to the ballad.
The album goes out with a died-in-the-wool folk song, It’s All Downhill From Here. 
Cleverly the tune is new yet sounds incredibly familiar and contains memory shots of so many other traditional songs which you can never quite put your finger on.
It is however, a great song to go out on almost as if the band are putting a rubber stamp on their folk pedigree.
Kelly and Brittain are developing into an incredible songwriting partnership.
They have a way of recreating the world they inhabit and understand through local history and traditions and turning it into fine songs which will be sung and re-sung by generations of folk singers. However, this said a big part of their work is brought to life by the quality of the musicians with which they are surrounded. There is no two ways about it TCR are among the best folk bands around at the moment.

Picking Up The Pieces is released on August 12 on their own label. You can get the album from the band’s website and the usual download sites.

You can catch the band live with the launch of their album on August 12 at Riverside Church, The Quay, West Looe, Cornwall. The show starts 8pm and tickets are £11.49. They will then go on to play at Looe Music Festival, Looe, Cornwall.