Nancy KerrNancy Kerr
Album: Sweet Visitor
Label: Little Dish
Tracks: 11

A solo record from Nancy? Well, it didn't surprise me that there've been plenty of pointers towards Sweet Visitor's stylings on the self-penned material that's graced the past couple of Kerr & Fagan CDs (the delectable Queen Of Waters on Twice Reflected Sun often gets singled out for replay in this house). Here, though, the consistency of a single authorial and singing voice imparts even greater conviction to the whole project, for all the songs are Nancy's own compositions.

A particular strength of Nancy's own songwriting is her deep grasp of tradition, her use of the structures and forms of traditional folk music to inform her literate, image-rich expression of a contemporary sensibility in matters concerning life's tensions, loves and conflicts. Tracks like The Priest's Garden and Lie Low in particular make effective use of traditional phrasing, referencing and time-honoured devices like refrains. On the other hand, Sickle And Harvest is exquisitely turned in both rhythm and rhyme, and yet lyrically mildly elusive, whereas Hard Songs more readily takes on the mantle of social comment. The sturdier The Bunting And The Crown adopts the garb of spirited Steeleye/Albion-style folk-rockery, with Nancy on deliriously lithe vocal form. Apollo On The Docks seems inspired as much by the model of Ewan MacColl's Sweet Thames, Flow Softly as much as by mythology, and the laid-back anthem Now Is The Time sports an ambitiously complex (if perhaps slightly distracting) choral setting. The latter instance is where singing crosses over into scoring, for, being an accomplished musician, Nancy's also well versed in the possibilities for adventurous arrangement, here specifically in that she's able to take advantage of the capabilities of a host of musician friends - this comprising three members of her Sweet Visitor touring band (James Fagan, Tom Wright and Tim Yates), with Tim Van Eyken, Rob Harbron, Martin Simpson, Jess Arrowsmith and Emily Smith also on hand for the recording sessions. And Andy Bell's superlative production ensures that all strands of the instrumentation are clearly defined yet packing the requisite degree of punch.

Sweet Visitor is an excellent offering that proves Nancy as a master of the art of songcraft yet without diverting from her skills as a brilliant singer and instrumentalist; this is (to take a rather obvious analogy, but fully intentionally!) yet another string to her already illustriously well-adorned bow.

David Kidman

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