Posted in SHOFT on Friday 24th June 2011 at 7:06am
Folk music. Love it or otherwise, it's everywhere lately. With even the biggest acts keen to break out the banjo and brush up their authenticity by referencing traditional music of various strains, it would be easy to get cynical about the way it's become so marketable in recent times. However, there are beacons of genuine commitment and inventiveness still, and Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou shine out in dark times on this uplifting and inspiring album. I've said before that it's been a strange year for me and Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou, with frequent crossings of path. Starting with their "Tin Tabernacle" tour and ending up at Homegame, I've listened to many of these songs developing and changing in a variety of live environments. So, their inclusion here, often with little more embellishment than they received in their live, acoustic setting feels like a chapter completed.
"Spin Me A Rhyme" was always a playful, rousing call to arms even when it was just Trevor and Hannah-Lou and their guitars. Here it is transformed into a stomping, pop gem with big drums and a beautifully brassy ending. While this opens proceedings with the clear message that this isn't going to be another attempt at dour traditionalism, there are clear links back to the canon of protest songs with Spanish Civil War era references to "joining the brigades". The politics are rarely overt in Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou's work - but there is a thread of communalism and a sense of pride in being British which seems terribly unfashionable now, even in these post-Big Society times. On the frenzied "Making It Count" this full band sound returns, with all kinds of joyous clattering percussion, bayou accordion and a lyrical tale of runaways which brings Brotherhood of Man's "Angelo" right up to date. It's audacious, ridiculously enthusiastic and impossible not to dance around the room to. A raucous folk-pop storm delivered with glee.
A spellbinding feature of recent live sets and captured perfectly here, "A Hill Far Away" is just two voices, two picked guitars and a slinky cello line winding around them. The voices entwine beautifully on lyrics which return things to a more prosaic everyday level, wistfully asking "have you ever had a day/when you wish the time would just slip away?". It's a quiet plea amongst the stomping celebrations and spirited clarion calls elsewhere on this album. One of the more positive forces at work in modern folk music is a willingness to blur tradition in order to convey a message, and "Big Water" exemplifies this perfectly. The landscape of picked guitars feels expansive and owes plenty to Americana, but here it meets some very traditional English balladry. This is beautifully played and touchingly sung, the traditional instrumentation supported by respectfully distant drums and organ. Over the course of their two records to date, it's clear that Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou's songs are often connected to our times - with a focus on the late 20th and 21st century which is perhaps a little unfashionable in this kind of fayre? Bringing things right up to 2011, "Stargazer's Gutter" is a thoughtful take on the widening effects of the economic downturn, with a dramatic chorus urging Presidents and paupers to "come lie down next to me" in Wilde's universal gutter. Bankers and lawyers take a not undeserved swipe here, but ultimately the democracy of the gutter is preserved. We're all in it together it seems, and if this is the soundtrack then perhaps it really is going to be OK?
And as if to soothingly confirm this, it's time for "Feel At Ease". An eerily echoing introduction gives way to an understated guitar introduction, but then Trevor and Hannah-Lou's voices soar in, and the catalogue of painful everyday experiences racks up. But this is all about shoring fragments up against those ruins, rather than wallowing in self pity - and I'll confess that the part of this song which implores "when your blood and your sweat go unsung, hold your tongue" has had some personal application this past week! Coupled with hammond organ flourishes and a wonderfully retro guitar solo grafted from a Johnny Cash record, the truly transporting chorus anchors this as a personal favourite.
Whether they're being performed near a blustery Fife harbour, or in a tiny tin church these songs have a strong universal appeal - the sometimes sparse delivery provokes a sense of the familiar, but this record is packed with new ideas. It's also exploding with enthusiasm, defiance and a peculiarly English sense of workmanship. The roots of this album spread deep into a variety of traditions, but the curious blend of the personal, the political and an unashamed urge to write genuinely democratic popular songs make this much more accessible than any academic collection of traditional songs. Bursting with joy, tenderness, righteous indignation and ridiculously great tunes - what more could you ask for?
Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou - Feel At Ease
Posted in Railways on Saturday 24th June 2006 at 8:48pm
A lot of miles have passed under the bridge this year, but so far it's been short of real events - no open days or galas have stood out as essential visits, and there have been few unusual passenger workings around here. So the return of locomotive hauled services to Fishguard for the Summer is notable - and well worth a trip to West Wales.
A fairly late start by my usual standards, hampered somewhat by festivities during the previous evening. Joined a small group of local cranks onboard the 0816 from Highbridge and half-dozed my way to Temple Meads. Over to platform 7 for the 0923 to Cardiff - a very hot journey which sent me snoozing again. We arrived at Cardiff Central in blazing sunshine to find a small but growing group of fifty bashers assembling on platform 4. Realised with some surprise that I hadn't been to Cardiff in over six months. Of course, besides the new ticket barriers nothing much had changed here.
My last Fishguard trips however, were in the Summer of 2004. Four trips in all - two of them abject failures, and two more successful attempts at locomotive hauled trips to the coast. The journey always seemed long and rather sweaty in the tired Arriva stock where the aircon rarely worked. The progress over the District Line is plodding at best. But for some reason, knowing this would be the first class 50 to make it out to Fishguard made this an occasion worth turning out for. More than pleased to see 50049 arrive at Cardiff, confirming that the trip was on.
Not much about the journey has changed over the last couple of years. The locomotive performed perfectly throughout the trip and we made steady progress - perhaps a little better than I recall the 37s making over the same ground. The sections of track alongside the coast made for good running and fine views, and rather sooner than expected we were slowing for arrival at the Harbour.
The station here was much as remembered, but the cafe was closed, leaving us with a rather longer wait for lunch than planned. Lots of photo opportunities during the running round of the loco as usual, with a slight delay due to 50049 initially refusing to be removed from the stock. Noted lots of cranks running around for a shot of the off-side of 50049 which had been repainted to masquerade as 50012 for some reason connected with the recent Scottish tour. Once the loco was off and running alongside the road, made the customary dash to the other end of the platform to get the close-up as the loco thundered over the crossing to rejoin the train. Always an exhilarating and slightly scary proceeding!
On to a boiling ex-Central unit at Cardiff, for a slow and drawn-out trundle into Bristol. Some strange noises from under the floor convinced us we might not make it in fact! Arrived at Temple Meads to find 6024 'King Edward I' awaiting a somewhat delayed departure on The Bristolian tour. Time for a few unsatisfactory pictures before an impressively noisy departure. Over to platform 15 for the HST back to Highbridge. A surprise ending to a day which went entirely to plan!
Posted in Updates on Thursday 24th June 2004 at 9:28pm
Rarely is such a lot of different stuff crammed into one week of my life!
First off, the beginning of Secondary Bulk Appeals for the year. Much dreaded, in fact, by me for hard to explain reasons. I was actually able to relax into them and somewhat recaptured some of the spirit and attitude from last year. Monday was a long and rather intense day. Results were very positive too. There are far fewer appeals this year, for me in effect just next week - which might seen a long one, but traditionally signals the wind down to my (now annual) conference weekend and London trip. This year of course include the Belle & Sebastian show at Somerset House.
Finally got various parts of new mobile phone working correctly, after a long email conversation with O2 during which they seemed to get as confused as I did! So, now I have GPRS access sorted, and have been playing with the Live Departure Boards provided by National Rail. Still getting used to the features of the handset, but I've vowed to learn to use this one properly, rather than accidentally discovering features as I go along. Also managed to get Bluetooth talking to the phone via
gnome-phone-manager which is working pretty well.
Visited friends for pizza and TV/VCR/DVD installation assistance yesterday, during which a wonky SCART lead caused a great deal of frustration. All was eventually well, and I'm looking forward to borrowing the "Rising Damp" DVDs!
Today, lots of meetings and confusing running around - found out surprising and frustrating result of a mover appeal earlier in the week which put me off my stride a bit - more concerned that people seem to be deeming these things 'performance' indicators, when this one was a complete surprise. You can't legislate for a panel which decides not entirely unjustly, but perhaps impracticably, to 'give someone a break'.
Heard that my Dad's surgery had gone well this morning, and that he was recovering and comfortable. Much relieved. Reminds me that some people have had a far more difficult few days than I!
Posted in Updates on Sunday 24th June 2001 at 12:06am
Felt pretty dreadful on waking, due to heavy wine consumption yesterday evening - perhaps I'm just out of practice. Contented myself with a lazy day watching TV (still barely working!), catching up on mail and even working on a speedily approaching OU assignment.
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.