Sunday, 14 February 2010

“Mark The Hard Earth” by KRIS DREVER. A Review of his 2nd Solo Album from 2010.

"…Dark Sky Above Me…Hard Earth Below…”

Formerly of folk sensation FINE FRIDAY (3 albums) and now very much part of the respected and awarded LAU (3 albums), Scottish born Drever made his stunning solo debut “Black Water” back in 2006 - and I’ve been hooked on his music ever since.

Drever then followed “Black Water” with the more overtly country almost ragtime “Honky Tonk Suite” with EAMONN COYNE later that same year - and has also done stints with the beautiful Kate Rusby and her band (we’re talking class here). With his deft acoustic guitar touches and a deep tonal voice that is the male equivalent of honey dribbling down Rusby’s frankly delicious bosom (a sight that would make many clergymen reconsider celibacy), it’s hardly surprising that this album is awaited by folk fans with bated breath and chattering teeth. I’m therefore delighted to say and a little relieved to report that after a few listens - it’s been worth the wait.

“Mark The Hard Earth” is his 2nd solo album proper and it’s being put out on Navigator Records (the label is named after a track on “Black Water” – cata no: NAVIGATOR30). It was produced by long-time collaborator and Scottish fiddle player JOHN McCUSKER and recorded, engineered and mastered with the help of CALUM MALCOLM of Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout and Simple Minds recording fame. With such talent on board, it’s hardly surprising that the audio quality is truly gorgeous – beautifully clear without ever being over-produced. The 12-page booklet offers little more than song credits and a few photos, but the card-wrap on the outside of the jewel case lends the whole thing a classy feel (44:21 minutes).

The songs are once again a mixture of lesser-known Scottish and Irish traditional airs (“O’ A’ The Airts”, “The Banks Of The Nile” and “Freedom Come A’ Ye”) and a slew of originals from contemporary rock, country and Americana artists - “This Old Song” by CALEB KLAUDER (on his “Dangerous Mes and Poisonous Yous” album) and “Shining Star” and “Wild Hurricane” by SANDY WRIGHT (an American songwriter often compared to Tom Waits or even Johnny Cash), while “Sweet Honey In The Rock” is co-written with BOO HEWERDINE (formerly of THE BIBLE) and JOHN McCUSKER. The only original of his own is the opening track “Mark The Hard Earth” – as lovely a folk song as you’re likely to hear all year (lyrics above).

The accompanying musicians include classy names he’s used many times before - Ian Carr on Guitars, Tim O’Brien on Mandolin, Banjo and Vocals, Donald Shaw on Wurly and Harmonium, John McCusker on Fiddle, Andy Seward on Bass and Phil Cunningham on Accordion. Instead of Eddi Reader or Kate Rusby, the accompanying duet vocals however go to HEIDI TALBOT on “Allegory” and “The Banks Of The Nile” while KAREN POLWART features on “Freedom Come A’ Ye”.

Musically the album is very mellow – quietly beautiful – with the old songs sitting nicely alongside the new ones. His doubled vocals on Sandy Wright’s “Wild Hurricane” are fabulous while the plaintive “O’ A’ The Airts” works its way into your heart almost immediately - washing over you like warm water. Duncan Drever’s “The Crown Of London” is a genuine modern-day beauty – Ian Carr’s guitar picking and Donald Shaw’s work on the Harmonium and Wurly so sweetly complimentary. The only track I found not so good is their short version of “The Banks Of The Nile” which they’ve also speeded up. Despite Heidi Talbot’s lovely duet vocals (similar voice to Cara Dillon) - the Fotheringay version from their lone 1970 LP runs to 8 minutes (Sandy Denny on vocals) and is so much prettier and frankly more magical. But the album ends on a very warm note - the Hamish Henderson song “Freedom Come A’ Ye” which features lovely vocal work from Karen Polwart.

I’ll admit that at first I found the whole thing a little underwhelming and it took a few listens to love it (it’s not as immediately brilliant as “Black Water”), but “Mark The Hard Earth” is yet another gem in a career that seems to know no stopping.

Lovely stuff and nice one.

No comments:

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc