Daphne’s Flight: Knows Time, Knows Change
Fledg’ling Records – 5 May 2017
There may well be some admirers of Daphne’s Flight who have grown up, had children and maybe even grandchildren while waiting for the follow up to their 1995 debut album. Well, it’s finally here, Christine Collister, Melanie Harrold, Julie Matthews, Chris While and Helen Watson having reconvened for Knows Time, Knows Change.
As before it spans the acoustic spectrum to take in folk, blues, jazz and soul, all but three numbers written by the members with While and Matthews providing the instrumentation for most while each affords the individual voices a turn in the spotlight although it’s Collister and Matthews who take the lion’s share.
The album begins with a solo a capella contribution from While with the other four providing the backing harmonies on a haunting reading of the late Australian singer/songwriter Michael Kennedy’s Lay Fallow. Watson takes over on vocals with Matthews on keyboards and While providing banjo, percussion and darbuka for the first cover, Nancy Wilson’s classic 60s soul number How Glad I Am, the others crooning behind her.
With While and Matthews on backing, the first of the original material comes from Collister, singing the piano-led Goddess of Mann, an atmospheric jazz folk co-write with Lindsey Rose that draws on her Isle of Man birthplace for a song about the wife of the mythical sea god for whom the island is named. Then it’s Harrold’s turn to step forward, accompanying herself on piano, the others ooohing behind her, for a fine take of the Costello/Langer Falklands War inspired Shipbuilding, one closer to the Costello than the Robert Wyatt version.
Written by Matthews, Count Me In is, to all intents and purposes, both in terms of sound and instrumentation, a While & Matthews number, the pair playing the guitars with Chris on percussion and Julie on vocals and keys, and, as such, somewhat atypical of the album, albeit the most immediate track.
Co-penned with Mark Creswell, the dreamy smokily-sung Let My Ship Come In is Watson’s sole writing contribution, Matthews laying down the Indian harmonium intro with while on lap steel and darbuka and another of the standout cuts. Again spotlighting While and Matthews, Hearts Of Stone is a sad but lovely weary and battered heart lament written and sung by the former, while No One Knows His Name finds Collister again in jazzy shades and again drawing on Manx folklore, this time about a mysterious man who apparently appeared off the coast, singing from his boat and beguiling the crowds gathered on the shore.
The penultimate track is Harrold’s contribution, taking lead and playing piano and glockenspiel backed by While and Matthews on the tumbling almost calypso folk-pop of My Heart 2. The album closes with the Matthews on lead and piano for the second of her songs, Split, a song about the end of a relationship caused by a sea change in her partner’s attitudes as she sings “I don’t like the friends you keep”, except, inspired by the divisions caused by Brexit, the partner here is England, the intolerance and racism of the Leave campaign making her feel a stranger in her own country.
Individually, they are classy performers, together they are utterly sublime. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take quite so long before they take flight again.
23th – Birmingham, Mac Birmingham
24th – Biddulph, Town Hall
25th – Didcot, Cornerstone
26th – Bury, The Met
27th – Barton Upon Humber, The Ropewalk
Sat 11th – Southwell festival
Sun 27th – Shrewsbury festival
22nd – Netherlands, Zaandam, Roots aan de Zaan
24th – Germany, Ludenscheid, Kulturhaus