Boomkat Product Review:
Attic-recorded folk tales about rural life, and elegies for the death of industry in early ’70s Hebden Bridge, surface for the first time with Basin Rock, who are located further up the Calder Valley in Todmorden some 50 years later.
‘Fireside Stories (Hebden Bridge circa 1971-1974)’ introduces an unheard talent for the first time with a bevy of solo guitar laments and gripping stories about the schisms of class, the trials of romance and decline of industry in a small working class town nestled in the hills between Leeds and Manchester. Written against a backdrop of post-industrial decline, long before Hebden Bridge became a mecca for queer folk and hippies, it’s quite an astonishing collection of work that hs somehow remained out of earshot until now, and especially so when considering the utterly classic quality of song-writing and playing, which recall the tenor of Arthur Russell’s down-home folk works, Robbie Basho’s folk blues, or stumbling across the greatest pub folk session and a pint after rambling in the drizzle. We can practically hear the beards sparking with glee at the promise of this one, and trust it doesn’t disappoint.
“Although you’d never know his age from the world-weary character of his voice, this is the work of a young songwriter seeking a musical identity by trying out several. He begins with dark and detailed narratives. Album opener “Marion Belle” is an evocative tale of mariners adrift upon the waves and within their own hearts; “Tell Me Now” is a harrowing one about a farmer’s son accused of raping and murdering the mayor’s daughter. His assumed guilt is rooted in the class divide: “Such a girl of respect would never have let/ A mere farmer make love to and court her.”
“Sunlight on the Table” is the opposite of a narrative, however, which is to say it’s a song in which nothing happens. Beales fixates instead on the minutiae of a single, interior moment: “Silence in the corridors, a slow tide in my mind/ A mist made up of memories of the ones I left behind.” A talented player by any standard, he attempts a playful Latin experiment on the instrumental “Braziliana.” But the energized album finale “Fireside Stories” may be the standout. He hits every impassioned downstrum with fervor and combines sharpened, singular stanzas—“If your jewels make you sparkle/ And your wine makes you glow/ And my words taste so bitter/ And you’ve learned all there is to know”—with a catalog of momentary images marked by a sensory vividness. It’s easy to imagine him, pen in hand, noting down the “creaking rocking chair and thick velvet curtains and the smell of the pinewood walls.” As such, Fireside Stories captures a gifted and otherwise-forgotten songwriter in amber. Finally dug out of the attic and dusted off, it shines in the light of day.”