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Nic Norton & the Country Band Nic Norton & the Country Band
Album: Brief Lives
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 6

This is not a happy clappy CD, it is a list of tales of misfortune, often well observed, abrasive and sometimes unpleasant. The songs require listening to, they are unlikely to pass muster as easy listening. That said there are a couple of gems within. Melancholy abounds and one is often left thinking "there but for the grace of God...etc." I particularly liked "Happiest man in the world" and "Walrus." Nic Norton is a BBC journalist who first became interested in folk music whilst at university. He notes that one of his influences is Nick Cave and those predispositions can be detected here. Nic's delivery has an edge to it appurtenant to the messages contained in the songs, whilst the music is sweet in comparison, but I suspect that was the intention.

Broken "You can't put back together what has been ground into sand. But hope springs eternal in the land of the damned." So begins this, the initial track on this CD of dark tales. It goes on to retell the mental anguish and horror instilled in a young boy's head by preachers and teachers. He needs to get away as his life is hanging by a single thread. A young girl is enduring similar troubles, what if they got together? Could they mend themselves?

The Tarot Deck A losing gambler reflects on his poor luck whilst trying to repel the unwanted advances a lustful landlord. Murderous thoughts go through his mind as he remains trapped in his room.

Ode to Lavinia in Winter A song jointly written with Liam Capper-Starr. Oscar liked sickly women, particularly as they fainted into his arms. Lavinia was one such who he awoke with a kiss. However Lavinia threw him out and wished him maimed. But he was hooked, they got back together and like Bonnie and Clyde set out on a robbing spree and we all know how badly that ended. Similarly here. Our hero was damned and beyond help.

Mary's Song refers to sores and scars that are left after a relationship breakdown with a duplicitous and domineering man. All the lies and twisted accusations leave the woman worn out but determined to have fun and the name of the ex partner is blown away, forgotten on the breeze. A gritty tale indeed.

Walrus is a rather sad recitation about a deformed man who did not have the advantage of appliances to help him in his childhood. Put to the back of his class, he lived down to the expectations of his peers. They called him "Walrus features" a name that stung him and he hated, but it stuck. He would chase the other kids away, but of course he couldn't catch them. But his parents loved him, singing to him and stirring his imagination of what he could be. He became a gardener, his tomatoes were the best around and were admired by the great and the good. This is a thought provoking moral tale about seeking out the best in someone.

Happiest man in the world. A narrative tale around Newcastle Upon Tyne from experiences Nic had while working as a newspaper reporter in the town. It weaves a story about a drunken concertina player who apparently had few cares as long as he could have a beer, play his instrument and tell stories. He gave off an air of being the happiest man in the world, but in private he would often weep secretly over his one lost love. It is an attractive waltz time song, well observed and presented.

Tony Collins