Religious intolerance is not new; it stretches back as far as religion is recorded. In 1620, the Mayflower set sail out of Plymouth harbour bound for the New World. In 1861 seven southern states declared their secession from the US and sparked the American Civil War. In 1932 coal miners in Wilder, Tennessee went on strike after their wages were cut for the third time. A company town, Wilder became the center of a violent uprising and a test case for workers rights.
If I told you that an album due for release on September 8 uses these and more to weave a coherent story of political unrest and the need for equality and compassion, and does it so well you not only feel entertained but informed as a result, you might think it a little far-fetched. Naomi Bedford, however, would take issue with that.
A History Of Insolence – Songs of Freedom, Dissent & Strife, is the second album from Naomi, an award winning English vocalist with an excitingly varied CV that includes work with such diverse acts as Orbital, DJ Mex, Rhythm Nylon Machine and Ron Sexsmith, winning plaudits from REMs Peter Buck and Shirley Collins along the way. Her voice is tailor-made for delivering the brittle pride and despair of the working man and woman, a gorgeous instrument that sticks like velcro and seduces like silk, so much so that it’s not a stretch to see her matching the Wilder coal miners stride for stride or standing on the dock as the Mayflower makes for the horizon.
[pullquote]The delivery is traditional and impassioned, humble and feisty, honest and bold. It should be on every school’s history curriculum.[/pullquote]Her own history provides insight into the variety on offer, both of musical styles and stories. Davidson Wilder Blues is a Hedy West roundel that takes no prisoners, and Naomi’s voice veers close to echoes of Joni Mitchell – yes, really. It’s followed by a dreamy folk ballad you might expect Cara Dillon or Kate Rusby to record, the Lady of the land making away with her Gypsy Davy, abandoning security and social standing for love. ..Davy has a nice harmony line from Justin Currie, a long-standing collaborator with Naomi. The Wild & Charming Energy and The Spider & The Wolf, the former a bubbly number complete with brass and co-written with her Paul Simmonds from The Men They Couldn’t Hang highlights the nuance in Naomi’s vocals, the latter a fable sung with onomatopoeic grace, delicate yet as strong as the web the spider weaves. It’s a delightful opening quartet, but the real beauty of this album unfolds in its second half.
The Currie penned We Are Not The People is a delicious slice of the Del Amitri-man’s minor key folk-pop, written for the album and accompanied by a V for Vendetta style video. The change of pace and sonorous piano acts like a pre-cursor to the album’s core; five songs that would not have sounded out of place on a Seeger or Guthrie release. An ocean going duo are first up, the ballad Overseas is a potted history of the aforementioned religious intolerance from Richard Coeur de Lion to the Twin Towers, Raise The Sails a peek into the inventory and impact of a trip across the Atlantic aided by a superb backing vocal from Donna Edmead. Simmond’s Junktown is a fast-paced run through the wrong side of the tracks that will test your ability to sing along without tripping over your tongue. Fields of Clover is a beautiful exploration of the baby boomers and The Old Abandoned Road – ‘The war was fought, and all for naught’ explores the futility of The American Civil War through the eyes of a soldier.
The Watches Of The Night closes proceedings save for a short instrumental reprise of Fields Of Clover. Together, the songs represent an heartfelt attempt to put the lyric and meaning front and center, backed by acoustic instruments playing warm and memorable melodies. The delivery is traditional and impassioned, humble and feisty, honest and bold. It should be on every school’s history curriculum.
Review by: Paul Woodgate
The Watches of the Night (with Alasdair Roberts)
Raise These Sails (with Paul Simmonds)
Upcoming Dates feat Naomi & Paul
18.09 – A History of Insolence CD Launch, The Slaughtered Lamb, London