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Ashley Hutchings Ashley Hutchings
Album: Street Cries
Label: Talking Elephant
Tracks: 12

Strictly speaking, this isn't exactly an Ashley Hutchings album per se. Originally released in 2001, it's a collection of traditional folk songs reworked by Hutchings with new lyrics to speak to 21st century issues, though, inevitably, these largely tend to be much the same as when the songs were first written.

Hutchings considers it among his best five albums, and it's easy to see why. The choice of musicians and their matching with the material was perfect, opening with John Tams joining Coope,. Boyes and Simpson for an unaccompanied 'Doing Time To Fit The Crime' (originally 'Gaol Song'_and followed by 'Damn The Day', a reworking of 'Adieu Adieu' sung by Pete Morton. Such is the quality throughout, it's an almost impossible task to isolate highlights, especially since each listener will doubtless have their own. But, pushed to a personal selection, I'd also have to nominate 'He's Young But He's Growing' ('My Bonny Boy'), sweetly sung (a deliberate counterpoint to the new lyrics about fatal drug addiction) by Cara Dillon with backing from the Lakeman boys Sam and Seth, Helen Watson's slinky jazzy sway through the saxy 'Salford Girls' ('Come All You Virginia Girls'), Steve Knightly channeling Richard Thompson in the company of Pete Zorn on sax for 'Endless Pages' ('Bold Poachers') and, accompanied by cello and fiddle, Dave Burland's reading of 'The Foggy Dew' transformed into 'The Shape of a Girl'. Plus, of course, the the reworking of 'All Things Are Quite Silent' as the death ballad 'These Cold Lips' with a typically hypnotic austere performance by June Tabor accompanied by Mark Emerson on icy piano.

For this re-release, this time round you also get an accompanying booklet that features the original titles and lyrics for those who want to give it the comparative text treatment. but which also serve to underscore how, in his rewrites, Hutchings tapped into the timeless relevance of the subject matter.

Mike Davies