A packed to the rafters' gig at the Cricket Club in Hartlepool welcomed the album launch of Maddison's Thread second album "Sixty Minutes An Hour". An apt tittle given that the original date "Sold Out" in hours necessitating a further date which too was packed to capacity.
What then is the appeal of Lee Maddison's music that generates such loyalty from his plethora of fans many of whom travelled significant distances to be a part of an event?
Is it his unique voice that has a warm and welcoming resonance? Could it be that his songs flit across genres like a sparrow hopping from one paving stone to another in search of that morsel of bread?
What isn't in doubt is the quality of is songwriting. From the opening number "Where Eagles fly" the music transports you, this time to the fells, a soaring flute underpinned by fiddle, a gloriously expressive song inspired by watching a pair of breeding eagles back in 1992.
And after looking skyward, the focus is turned inwards with "Fledgling" examining the feeling of letting go. The string section of Emma Fisk (violin), Jill Blakey (viola) and Fiona Beyer (cello) tug at your emotions as Lee's poetic words tumble across our consciousness "We've shared magic in raindrops / In the wind, in the treetops / Laid down our happy heads to dream / To lullabies of mountain streams / And how we've dreamed".
Waking from a dream, you'd want it to be like "Making the Morning Last", a laid back jazzy number that leaves you with a warm smuggley feel like that when leaving the duvet is an option not a demand. Paul Donnelley's tasteful electric guitar matches the feel perfectly of this lazy Sunday morning song.
From warmth to sadness, to understanding a relationship is on its last legs, "Love Like Autumn" features Edwina Hayes sharing the vocals in a country tinged style as they come to terms with love that has withered and blown away.
Another genre hop and it's rootsy raga rock with "The Vikings Daughter" which was inspired by a picture on a wall, the track from the first album the self titled "Maddison's Thread" ups the tempo and Nigel Spaven on bass, Darren Moore on drums add a welcome percussive back drop.
Certainly, the band hand-picked for the occasion are impressive throughout, the arrangements all orchestrated by Stewart Hardy who produced the new album and who adds his own fiddle so effectively it seems to a natural part of his body; It's so fluid and heartfelt as he closes his eyes and the music just flows out.
We close our eyes as "Jessica" a song written for his Granddaughter plays out, it feels like a 1930's waltz, we time hop back to a gentler time.
In no time at all the first set finishes with "Don't Say Goodbye" just acoustic guitar and strings, it's stripped bare, it's desperation, the willingness of wanting a relationship to last just a little bit longer. You beg, you plead, yet in your heart you know. "Don't say goodbye girl / for the tears I've made you cry / will rain forever on your mind / Don't leave me drifting on the tide / of the ocean that you've cried / No don't say it / Don't say goodbye".
I'm blown away by that couplet "Don't leave me drifting on the tide of the ocean that you've cried". It just keeps rolling round my head, a single phrase that paints a picture so strong.
Opening the second set is one of Lee's most requested songs "Night Circus" a wonderfully jazzy, slightly dark song about the nightlife you might encounter on the streets of any large town. Sue Ferris switched to Sax and treated us to a brilliant solo which added to the electric atmosphere in the room.
Room for a cover, you must be incredibly brave, (or have a death-wish) to attempt a Roy Harper song. It's "Flycatcher" and the band rock it up, it's more memorable than the original, an excellent choice. Incredibly brave and talented it is then. It sounds even better live than on the new record.
"Sixty Minutes an Hour", the title track, live for the moment, inspired by C.S. Lewis. A ticking guitar, hypnotic plucked fiddle, "for time she flies at sixty minutes an hour".
Rewinding time back to the first album "One Day" is a positive song about depression and dealing with the way you feel, it adds poignancy when you consider Lee Maddison works in Mental Health Care, it's a song I love and goes a long way to explain how people manage to cope with their feelings. It lifts me every time and I smile inside when the mists of depression clear.
Clearly a sense of injustice rallies within Lee as "Charlatans & Blaggers" shows, to a sonic backdrop created by Stewart Hardy's violin the song addresses those bureaucrats who are no better than "suited and booted sewer rats with their wooden swords and paper hats".
Small time mentality, inertia, the inability to get away, the way stagnation creeps and insidiously sleeps inside you and when the opportunity for change is offered, you vote for more of the same. These are day to day tales to relate to "And I'm deep deep routed like an old oak tree / need some wind in my boughs to uproot me" the chorus from "Tumbleweed" a song that would fit seamlessly on a Crosby, Stills Nash and Young album.
Another swift style change, and its Vaughan Williams style strings, it's more quintessentially English than The Kinks, "A Thomas Hardy Evening" captures the beauty and the idyllic peace that being at one with the countryside can bring. A true wordsmith, the lyrics bounce bright images than flash behind your eyes, drowsy dappled horses, sweeping scything swallows, a furry bumble bee foraging, dandelion seeds floating over fields of hay. And there's a sting. Having described so vividly such a setting the final verse sets our priorities firmly in place. "On and on while the woodland rings with evensong / through the creaking wicket gate into the leafy throng / no need for church or tower beneath than sylvan bower / for earth and roots and greenery speak louder than empty words to me". Prose that reminds me strongly of the Poetry of Robert Frost. Outstanding, truly outstanding song.
"Lines on a Fishermans Wife" is a folky adaptation of a 19th Century local Hartlepool poem, which ends like most folk tales with a death or two. Typical cheery folk music, it went down a treat!
"Parasiteful" is a new word for the English Dictionary, a biting blast at those who take more than they give, Politicians, Industrialists and the like stripping our planet of its resources, views that were well received by the audience.
All too soon the evening closed with the up-tempo and upbeat "Wonderful Day". And as the last note played, the applause led to a deserved standing ovation.
An encore of covers including "Lady Eleanor" from some famous band up just around the corner, a fitting end to a great night's entertainment which started with support from the delightful Edwina Hayes.
Edwina, whose voice has been described by no less than Nanci Griffith as "the sweetest in England" charmed us with her music and incredible warm patter.
From her opening "Leave a Light On For You" to the closing "Mr Tamborine Man" the audience fell into her arms, she sang with the soothing voice of your mother when you hobbled home with a bloody knee, the voice of your lover who assuages your rage, you have to listen, you have to smile. And that's a terrific gift to have, to be able to share with those listening. It was a perfect start to the events that followed.
Word Ian Cripps, Pic Howy White
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