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Stuart Forester Stuart Forester
Album: The Good Earth
Label: Melonstone
Tracks: 13

This is an engaging album of wistful, blues flavoured songs from the Scottish based Yorkshireman, following up his well-received 2013 debut 'A Yard of Ale'. A move from London in 2015, following a life changing loss, has resulted in an album with a marked Caledonian flavour, fiddlers Carol Anderson and Jonny Hardy (of the legendary Old Blind Dogs) helping to create a soundscape of simple sophistication.

Inspired in part by a road trip through the forgotten parts of rural America, the album opens with the autobiographical 'Born in a Blizzard', a statement of defiance in the face of depression. Forester's guitar and vocals lead in, before fiddles raise the stakes with darkly harmonic chords, then switch to lead, weaving increasingly intricate counter-melody lines around the fluid picking, before the ensemble drives on. Rhiannon Campbell (backing vocals) and Davy Cattanach (percussion) complete the band.

On 'Dead End Road', violin dances around Foresters gentle arpeggios and plaintive vocals, telling of resignation and regret, a modern tale of life in dead-end town.

'I was ready for war, but I lost the fight…I've lived around here for all of my life'.

Subtle use of piano, organ and mellotron (Forester himself) give a depth and richness to the piece, not unlike early Strawbs.

'Say Goodbye to your Grimsby Lass', tells of the separation of fishermen from their loved ones. With its catchy chorus, it seems likely to become a folk club staple, worth checking out for club singers.

With 'Over and Over', a song of longing and love, Forester's guitar picks out a motif in waltz time, then gently engaging vocals intertwine with violin; subtle percussion from Cattanach propels the song with a gentle swing.

'Baltimore' opens with mountain dulcimer (Forester again) and violin setting an old timey scene, as Forester sings of the seventeenth century pirate raid when a hundred residents of a fishing community in Cork were torn from their homes, to be sold as slaves. A beautiful song well sung, telling of an often-overlooked chapter of the history of coastal communities in the south and west of the British Isles.

The theme of isolation and in the big city is explored in 'London Pride', as the writer seeks companionship with fellow exiles, and they bond over folk music and the eponymous beer. Another belting chorus, Forester has a keen ear for a folk hook.

The album closes with 'Colorado Days', continuing the pan-Atlantic Celtic feel that imbues the album, inspired by the writer's travels along the dusty back roads of that raw and beautiful state.

Recorded in Forester's home studio in rural Aberdeenshire and mastered by Pete Maher, this is a simple and unpretentious collection of modern folk, weaving Scottish and American themes with Yorkshire grit and passion.

There is a good mix of contemporary and traditional themes, canny social observation rubs shoulders with raw personal confessional, mixed with historical ballads.

Forester tells FATEA that he hopes to be touring later in the year, dates will be posted on his website as soon as they have been finalised.

Well-crafted songs, with a touch of Americana.

Laura Thomas