Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Colonel Moseley reviews "Encore" by Harvey Andrews

Very pleased this week to be able to buy a new CD from my Brummie hero, Harvey Andrews, who is to be congratulated upon his seventieth birthday and fiftieth anniversary of song-writing and performance.

Engineered by Bruce Davies, Harvey’s sixteenth album was recorded at Glenrothes in Fife with a talented group of musicians. The songs have a relaxed and accomplished air and make varied and entertaining listening.

This collection  strikes some  familiar chords for those acquainted with Harvey’s work.  Life now and in the past is explored from various perspectives in songs like "Antiques,"  “Poor Maggie Ann,” based on the life of the paternal grandmother he never knew and  "The Innocent,” which looks at the ordinary folk always under threat - from the War through the Cuban Crisis, Birmingham pub outrages, the Twin Towers and on to the London bombings. "Whisky Jack” was written with the Harvey’s  friend and collaborator on the road in the 1970’s Graham Cooper, who sadly passed away recently.

The humorous folkie siffleur is revisited with “ Mr Arthur Itis” and jokey topicality with “I Got the Mortgage." The liberal humanism, in the spirit of Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton, that has been present in Harvey’s songs since the very beginning of his career is evident in songs such as the heartfelt “Give a Boy a Gun.”

As befits an album entitled “Encore,” the key to this collection lies in the songs that look back. An affecting head of retrospective  steam  is built up in the final six tracks.

“Way Back When,” with its lively fiddle backing, is inspired by Rambling Jack Elliott. “The Price of Bronze” mourns the erosion in the simple decency, so evident in generations that were willing to sacrifice their lives for worthwhile values: try explaining that to someone capable of stealing the bronze from a war memorial.

The title track – a cheerful, nostalgic sing-along beginning in Ronnie Ronalde mode – is Harvey as jolly life and soul.  This is followed by “Moon over Callow,” a wistful homage to his adopted Shropshire, a place to watch  the changing seasons and try to understand life. This leads seamlessly to a poignant version of “The Summer of my Dreams” by David Mallett, another meditation on the sense of place and the passage of time.’

The album closes with my favourite, “This was Home” which,  like Harvey's exquisite earlier version of Mallett’s  “Can’t Go Home Again” on his previous offering, "Somewhere in the Stars,”  begins with lines describing distant  childhood against strings and then goes into an evocation of the ghosts of the happy Andrews' family home “with mum and dad and gran – who taught me to tie laces.” 

Like so many of Harvey's best songs, this one conjures up a time when families were less fragmented, when the generations believed in some of the same things and even knew how to be happy together: a world of going into town with gran on Saturday morning and sitting on the bus upstairs at the front - no-one was mugged and, for a treat, you had tea and a doughnut at Lewis's.

So there you have it, “Encore” is  warm, absorbing and thought-provoking and a splendid addition to an outstanding and underrated body of work.

Note: buy the CD from Harvey's website : 

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