Virtuosic folk and classical guitar player Andy Kirkham emerges from a long silence with a fifth solo album that sees him exploring the personal, heartfelt and heart-warming aspects of life, with the title alluding to the many strings to his musical bow. This is evidenced in the world music theme that runs through Andy’s work and here he extends the Eastern European influences that appeared on 2010’s Shards and introduces African styles into his highly respected playing.
Andy starts in a reflective mood for Travelling Song, sharing his recollections of some of the offbeat characters he met while playing at festivals. To his finely-picked steel string guitar and Hugh Stanners’ interjecting accordion, he takes the listener on the return journey to his East Anglian home. Call Me features the rarely-heard and criminally underused percussion instrument ‘saucepan with water in’, which Henry Walker uses to interesting effect while Andy sings about some of his strengths and weaknesses, which arrive like ripples in the pan’s water. A beautiful and impressive guitar/saucepan break demonstrates that what he can do with six strings is a clear strength – but he claims to be not so good at things like Snapchat or looking pretty.
The album journeys much further east for Lammah Badah, specifically Morocco on a balmy evening that is filled with intrigue, mysticism and suspense with Andy’s interpretation of the traditional Middle Eastern tune. His complex guitar is joined by Jesse Barrett on cahon and Alex Patterson on violin to summon the atmosphere of a bustling Casablancan bazaar at sunset.
There’s a touching light-hearted break in the deeply personal Little Shoes, a song written for Andy’s teenaged daughter as she leaves behind the trappings of childhood like the Easter Bunny and Dr Seuss. Here we learn of memorable events from the girl’s past – and Andy’s commendable parenting skills – such as when he stuck her legs together with honey or stole her guitar. Whether or not he used the instrument on the song isn’t noted but it would have been a nice gesture.
The fascinating instrumental Cat Bells wasn’t suggested by the bird-scarers worn on feline collars but rather the popular Catbells fell that lies close to Derwent Water in the Cumbrian hills. This piece, together with the later Angel Fish, amply showcases Andy’s incredible fluency as a highly skilled classical player, with a striking, contrasting and dramatic soundscape entirely worthy of its inspiration. A quick trip from the British Lake District to West Africa brings the song Jarabi, which is more usually performed on a kora but Andy has expertly transcribed the piece for his guitar, on which he combines classical and folk styles with the traditional African sound. He is accompanied again by Dave Pullin’s rumbling double bass and another of Henry Walker’s interesting instruments, the half-gourd calabash.
By the closing song Sundown, things take a sharp turn towards the melancholic, with lyrics that were inspired by Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. However, rather than mourning the former Prime Minister’s demise, Andy expresses great sorrow for her enduring legacy and the tragic loss of the UK’s large industries during her time in office.
With Not One but Another Andy Kirkham has crafted a collection of consistently dazzling, exemplary playing alongside lyrics that are as thought-provoking as they are moving. This is a beautifully played, eclectic album that grows with the repeated listens that it deserves.
Review by: Roy Spencer