Pete McClelland: Carolina Sky
Hobgoblin Records – 2017
A member of both The Blackthorn Band and Thingumajig, Carolina Sky is Sussex singer-songwriter Pete McClelland’s debut solo album, part recorded in Nashville with session players Wayne Kilius, Pat Severs, Mike Joyce and Tigar Bell and inspired by becoming a grandfather and his many journeys across North America with his wife, Mannie.
That’s particularly evident in the sprightly opener The Appalachian Way, a sprightly banjo led song about driving from Redwing to Asheville to visit his friend Jerry Harmon. McClelland has a distinctly easy rolling voice at times reminiscent of Ralph McTell and Don Williams, the latter particularly (despite recalling Blue Bayou) on Thinking of a Song and, on one of the first songs he ever wrote and with a melody akin to the opening number, A Kind of Kindness, perfectly suited to these homespun songs with their blend of folk and country.
The Willow Tree, featuring the Grand Ole Opry star Severs on dobro, is a traditional English folk song, though you wouldn’t know it from the arrangement, but otherwise these are all self-penned. Walk This Road is a reflection on becoming a grandfather which also looks back at his own father and grandfather, both singers, and his place in the scheme of things. Family also inform Marion, a song for his wife featuring Jason Pegg on accordion while the ukuele–strummed Carolina Sky was inspired by a trip taken by the two. Elsewhere, Celestial Sky puts me in mind of a less plummy Peter Skellern in a song about love, the moon and stars. Marie dips into blues territory with a riff – and falsetto delivery – inspired by Canned Heat’s Going Up Country, the blues influences also evident in the lyrically dark War of Love. There’s nothing here that’ll earn him a place in any songwriter’s hall of fame, but it’s all accomplished and a very enjoyable, refreshingly airy, listen.