Given the time Boo Hewerdine devotes to writing for, recording with and producing other musicians, it’s often surprising he’s able to devote time to his own projects at all. Recent highlights include his State Of The Union project with Brooks Williams, as well as working with Kris Drever, Eddie Reader, Findlay Napier, Heidi Talbot – to name but a very few. Perhaps that scarcity of solo work is one of the reasons there’s always a pleasing flutter of anticipation when a new release from Hewerdine is announced. You never quite know what’s going to happen.
Well, what’s happening now is the release of a 5 track EP, Born. Available through Reveal records in a limited edition of 1,000 copies, Born is a tantalising reminder of Hewerdine’s exceptional song-writing talent; and a sneak preview of his first studio album of new songs, due in October, since God Bless The Pretty Things in 2009.
The Year That I Was Born opens the E.P., charts some significant events of 1961 and briefly touches on the pointlessness of crystal-gazing. With piano, Hewerdine’s soft vocal and a pulse of percussion, the song is brimming with lyrical gems but the idea of ‘New elements half dying’ really captures the imagination.
Hometown has the same sense of nostalgia as the opening track. Co-written with Boo’s son, Ben, the soothing combination of just voice and piano, reminiscent of great American song writers like Randy Newman and Carole King, wistfully assures us that no matter what its shortcomings, he’ll always return.
The second track from the combined art of Hewerdine & Son is Swimming In Mercury. A gentle waltz is the setting for another series of childhood recollections. These slightly disconcerting snatches of memory float by like lost snippets of home movies. The song also provides the title for Boo’s October’s impending release.
Bobby Fischer moves forward a few decades to an eye-witness account, in a gently hymnal setting, of when the famed eccentric chess master fled from Japan to Iceland; his detention-dodging manoeuvrings compared to a chess game. Then to close, Farewell, a short and sweet piano piece from Ben.
Probably the most immediately striking thing about the Born E.P. is how Boo employs the sparse sound to make such excellent use of his voice and his lyrical wit. Fittingly, it’s very much a family affair. Not only has Hewerdine junior, Ben, contributed to the content, the piano used is Boo’s own father’s. With its nostalgic overtones, perhaps Born is the natural successor to 2015’s Open, where Hewerdine rediscovered neglected master tapes, blowing the metaphorical dust from them in a beautifully recorded collection of songs, mostly familiar to his live audience.
Boo Hewerdine’s sterling work on behalf of other musicians can often go unnoticed by the paying public, but his collaborators know the full worth of his input. They would, I’m sure, welcome his decision to step in to the limelight once again. If Born is an indication of what we can expect in October, then I’m all in favour of the UK music scene making its way without his ubiquitous benevolence for a while longer.
Born is Out Now via Reveal Records
27/8 PURBECK VALLEY FOLK FESTIVAL
2/9 CARLISLE OLD FIRE STATION
3/9 MILTON KEYNES STABLES
14/9 SHREWSBURY HENRY TUDOR HOUSE 15/9 DUNDEE CLARK’S
28/9 NORWICH BICYCLE SHOP
30/9 LLANTWIT MAJOR ST DONATS
1/10 RAMSBOTTOM VILLAGE HALL
2/10 ALDERNEY EDGE THE YARD
5/10 BIRMINGHAM KITCHEN GARDEN CAFE
6/10 EDINBURGH VOODOO ROOMS
7/10 BIGGAR RED ROAD CAFE
8/10 GLASGOW CCA
9/10 LONDON GREEN NOTE
12/10 CHELMSFORD BLUES IN THE CITY
13/10 CRICKLAKE THE OLD STABLES
14/10 BRISTOL THE FOLK HOUSE
15/10 WRINGTON REFRESHMENT ROOMS
22/10 ISLE OF WIGHT VENTNER ARTS
25/10 CAMBRIDGE JUNCTION
27/10 DONCASTER SUNRAY FOLK CLUB
11/11 TOTNES THE BARREL HOUSE
15/11 READING SOUTH STREET ARTS
18/11 IPSWICH ST PETERS BY THE WATERFRONT 19/11 WINCHESTER RAILWAY
22/11 BRIGHTON KOMEDIA
24/11 OXFORD OLD FIRE STATION
26/11 BEACONSFIELD THE HAT CLUB