Peter Fergus McClelland – The Turn of the Tide
Hobgoblin Records – 2017
Subtitled Songs of the Sea, Coast, Fishing, Rivers, Lovers and Banishment, The Turn of the Tide is Pete McClelland’s second album within a few months (read our review of Carolina Sky) and came about as the result of a gig supporting Martin Simpson at last year’s Cornwall Folk Festival. For his set, McClelland put together a collection of songs about rivers, the sea and the coast and, as it went down well, he decided to record it too.
It’s made up of six traditional numbers, covers of Lennie Gallant, Archie Fisher and Stan Rogers plus three of his own. Two of these also appeared on the last album, Carolina Sky.
Divided into themes, it opens with banishment and two traditional numbers he learned from Nic Jones in the early 70s, a simple fingerpicked The Island of St Helena, concerning Bonaparte’s exile and, featuring accordion and bass, The Isle of France about a convict being shipwrecked on his way home after seven years of transportation.
The second section concerns Fishing and begins with Make and Break Harbor, which, featuring Sarah Mooney on whistles, is Rogers’ story about the decline of the fishing industry in Eastern Canada. Arranged for cajon, bass and fiddle, Gallant’s Peter’s Dream addresses the same theme. On a brighter note, Pete is joined on vocals by Dogan Mehmet with fiddle accompaniment from Nick Pynn for The Herring’s Head is a lively cumulative children’s song from the West Country, each verse adding to the chorus list. Also featuring fiddle, the section closes with the equally sprightly Candlelight Fisherman, a song about a fisherman testing the wind to see whether he wants to go out to sea or stay in bed, collected from one of the last Thames bargeman Bob Roberts.
Moving on to Rivers, The Willow Tree is given a sort of ragtime treatment, a McClelland rewrite of the died for love English folk song (minus the upbeat last verse), revisited from the last album with less snare, no dobro but added mandolin and more piano. Then, Johnny Sands is a music hall rework of The Wife of Kelso’s tale of a man with a harridan missus, the version here a remix of a recording from the second Blackthorn Band (another of his projects) with added fiddle.
Little needs to be said about Just as the Tide was Flowing, a long time folk club staple and apparently the first song he ever performed live, here complemented by Mooney’s whistles. The last in this section is a rework of The Appalachian Way, one of the Carolina Sky stand-outs, with a different mix, new vocals and minus the dobro.
The final two numbers form the Coast element, first up being the jaunty fiddle-driven folk-pop Top Alex, a self-penned number in memory of the Southend pier pavilion that burned down in 2005 the day after he tried to take his family to see it. With just McClelland on guitar, the last track is Archie Fisher’s Men of Worth, a strathspey-styled song recalling how, with the decline of the Scottish fishing industry, many turned to the oil rigs of the North Sea for work. You may have already got a copy of his last album, but you should put the boat out and shore up the collection with this too.