Naomi Bedford’s début release Tales from the Weeping Willow is a fitting epiphany of her personal conviction, hard work and a musical journey from childhood to adulthood that has featured a deep love of ballads. I admit we are long time fans, the first track we played of Naomi’s was in 2007, it was a duet with Paul Simmonds called Whiskey and Wine, she’s certainly no newcomer and she’s been performing for a long time now but always on the fringe or out of the limelight.
She’s one of the most unpretentious artists I’ve had the pleasure in meeting and you could easily be fooled into considering her someone who likes to take it all easy but you know after talking to her about her music that if she has her heart set on reaching a goal, she will get there! A few years ago she told me she was making a murder ballad album… it was a fitting and exciting prospect and the road has not been a short one but she has made some very wise moves along the way including her choice of Gerry Diver (Speech Project) to produce and engineer the album.
Once you hear Naomi Bedford’s beautiful and unique voice you will never forget it, she has a natural ability of packaging up sentiment and unleashing it with incredible ease. The material she chose for Tales from the Weeping Willow was perfect…whilst she could quite as easily have sung solo throughout this album there is a certain magic to the duets which include Justin Currie (Del Amitri), Paul Simmonds (The Men They Couldn’t Hang) and Alasdair Roberts.
It was also great to hear Gerry Diver making numerous instrumental contributions as well as other guests including singer and fiddle player Darren Black. There is a warmth to this album despite the darker themes of murder death and sorrow and it reminded me in places of the feeling you get at an imtimate late night music session with friends. It all feels very organic and together, what more could you ask for?
The choice of songs are far from the obvious, Paul Simmonds contributes two including the wonderfully moving The Clouds of Colwyn Bay, a modern day folk song based on a true and tragic event, it has one of the most moving choruses and you’d be hard pushed to hold back the tears when you hear Naomi sing:
so blow wind blow, it’s your caress
fall rain fall, your goodbye kiss
you’re going away
to the clouds of Colwyn Bay
to the dark, twisting clouds of Colwyn Bay
February (written by Naomi) is the perfect murder ballad mixed up in the madness and confusion of love and written through the voice of the victim, asking whether her lover, also her murderer, will remember what he did or erase it from his mind. The lap steel and dobro (played by Lenny Harvey) play out perfectly over the longing voice of Naomi’s victim. She proves throughout the album that she can get inside a ballad and breathe life into it. One of the more surprising tracks where she works her magic is on My Love is Deep which opens with Justin Currie singing through a slightly distorted mic…it builds to be a very haunting track that stays with you long after the track is over!
There are so many high points to this album its hard to pick out the best, but at a push: Railroad Bill which features the wonderful gospel sounding chorals of Donna Edmead has undertones of Johnny Cash and a damn great feel good factor. Colwyn Bay will always be a favourite as a song…the combination of Naomi and Alasdair Roberts makes it that extra bit special.
The musical arrangement on the album is one of the best I’ve heard this year, it’s so in touch with the song and voice throughout, it doesn’t have that over-polished detached sound that so many albums seem to fall foul of, it has a rich, live and vibrant feel to it. It’s definitely not an album you’ll tire of and it’s well up there on our best albums of 2011!
Roland The Headless Thompson Gunn
The Ferry Boat Inn (feat. Paul Heaton)
Video: The Early Days
Naomi Bedford & Alasdiar Roberts rehearsing Colwyn Bay (2007)
Justin Currie and Naomi Bedford rehearsing ‘One of a Kind’ in glasgow september 12th 2009