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Reviews

Jim CausleyJim Causley
Album: Forgotten Kingdom
Label: Hands On
Tracks: 15
Website: http://www.jimcausley.co.uk

East Anglia, Northumberland, Mercia and Wessex, the four main kingdoms of Anglo Saxon England. What is perhaps not generally known, is that these four kingdoms were forged from many older, smaller post Roman territories and it one of those that has provided Jim Causley with the inspiration for his latest release.

Dumnonia included the modern counties of Devon and Cornwall, as well as parts of Somerset, and was the home of the Dumnonii, a pre-Roman British Celtic tribe who survived to re-establish their territory after the Romans left British shores around AD410.

Jim Causley is a proud Devonian who has grown up in the county at the heart of this land and, in Forgotten Kingdom, has produced a collection of original songs that take us through the history of this ancient territory and it's descendants.

Forgotten Kingdom starts off at a cracking pace with a pair of songs that could well be a Dumnonian national Anthem. Gabbro Bowl/Peninsular Prayer starts of by referencing the discovery at Hembury Hill Fort some of the earliest Neolithic pottery to be found in Southern Britain before moving on to Devon and Cornwall's medieval history and finishing off with a call for unity between the modern residents of Dumnonia.

The history of the land is a recurring theme on Forgotten Kingdom. Pride Of The Moor was originally written in 2013 as part of a commission by Exeter's Spacex gallery and celebrates Dartmoor's tin mining heritage. The Road To Combebow starts with the first verse of The False Knight On The Road and then turns the tale on its head by using the knight rather than the child to tell the story of how Christianity came to Dumnonia

As well as the past, more contemporary subjects come in for examination on Forgotten Kingdom. Home touches on the problems encountered by rural families as incomers force up house prices making homes unaffordable for the next generation. Reigning Men is a look at the historical abuses inflicted on the populace by those in power over the centuries.

Perhaps, unsurprisingly given the inspiration for this album, there are several songs based around retrospection and reminiscence, Back In The Day is a fond reminiscence of childhood days which segues quite nicely into the Banks Of The Tale, an introspective, downbeat tale of love gone bad. The Weekend takes the form of a letter from Jim to his younger self celebrating reaching the present, albeit tinged with regret. Illogan Highway is a song that has its roots in traditional folk and music hall and is the joyful reminiscences of a woman of a certain age chasing the handsome young men in her youth and not regretting a moment of her adventures. On a similar theme, The Man You Knew is a joyful celebration of youth and being footloose and fancy free.

The changing seasons are also an inspiration with the poignant Summer's End comparing and contrasting the end of an idyllic summer with the passing of a relationship. Goodnight Ballad is set at Halloween and is unflinchingly realistic about the hardships of the coming winter whilst at the same time offering some quiet reassurance that all will be well. With it's reference to the Wæs Haeil, The Pastoria sits well with Goodnight Ballad but reminds us that, despite our best efforts, time and the seasons flow inexorably onwards.

On Forgotten Kingdom, Jim Causley has surrounded himself with a fine selection of talented musicians and the resulting album is a much more layered production than his previous release, Cypress Hill. The list of collaborators reads like a who's who of English Folk music with Phil Beer and Steve Knightley (on whom's label, Hands On Records, this album is released) contributing; Phillip Henry are on the CD, as are Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston. Kathryn Roberts' vocals add a poignant quality to Reigning Men while the backing vocals of Jon Whitley, Jay Labouchardiere and The Claque give Pride Of The Moor the feel of a work song entirely in keeping with Dartmoor's industrial heritage

Once again, Jim Causley has shown that he has a rare feel for the traditions of English folk music and in Forgotten Kingdom he has produced a collection of songs that are steeped in the heritage of the land that he loves and range in subject matter from the historical to the contemporary and from the political to the personal. This is a fine a collection of new folk songs as you are likely to find and by surrounding himself with such a talented group of musicians, singers and producers, Jim Causley has made a truly outstanding album. On a work of this quality it is difficult to pick out individual tracks but I was particularly impressed with Gabbro Bowl/Peninsular Prayer and the way the almost medieval arrangement of the song echoes the words being sung. My favourite song, though, has to be Combebow Road. That is the one that I keep coming back to, I like the way it takes The False Knight On The Road and uses the knight from that song to tell another story so effectively. Forgotten Kingdom is one of the finest new folk albums that I have heard for a long time and, if there is any justice in the world, will be winning numerous accolades come awards season. Get yourself a copy, you won't be disappointed

David Chamberlain