Seeing Red (and Black) Album Review – Graham Parker, Macstock

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‘To paraphrase Oasis, whatever you expect of this album – it’s not!

Seeing Red (& Black), the most recent pressed album to come from Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores is an album full of surprises – and one you need in your musical collection.

The “grrrrl” band that started out as a collaboration project, features Gail Something-Else, Tez Roberts, Aimee Bee and Suzy Condrad on a variety of instruments including stick bass, baritone uke, melodica, guitar, and El Cajon. For this album, they are joined by Hellen Bach on flute and Mel Rogers from Tarantism on whistle.

If you were expecting an invitation to a tea party hosted by The Raincoats and Crass then think again! Although the girls are singing about all things social and political that matter to them, and some of the content is not for the faint-hearted or Daily Mail reader, this album does not feel the need to growl before it bites.

To set you a scene, imagine it’s the mid 1960’s, you are walking down the West Bank of the Seine and you pop into a smoky cafe for a coffee and brandy. The atmosphere is thick with political debate, in the far corner sit a group of bohemian looking women playing music.

Fronting this sound are the mellifluous tones of Gail’s vocals. There’ a hint of female crooner about them that is simple and charming, a sort of politicised Dusty Springfield; infuse a hybrid between that and Hazel O’Connor meets Lily Allen and you could be getting close.

The production of the album is ridiculously crisp and clean considering it was recorded in a cow shed – no, seriously, it was – for which Jeremy Paul Carroll deserves much applause. He has put The First Lady of Confrontation’s vocals centre stage, where they belong, and wrapped them up in the warm tones of the flute and melodica.

There are echoes of traditional folk running right through the album that is a melange drawing on left-bank swing, Balkan gypsy dance, jazz waltz fusion and cowgirl reggae-hop. From the opening lines of Seeing Red, which sets out the political position of the band quite clearly, the album continues in an almost dreamy landscape that covers broken relationships, failed political promises and the despising of monarchy and capitalists. Gail’s words come from the heart and her compositions are obviously influenced by the sounds she heard at home and in concert halls as a young woman – which is no bad thing if you appreciate intelligent musical construction.

As with all artists, you can tell which pieces mean the most to them. So when you have listened to and enjoyed the rousing tirades of Between Your Legs (So we’ll sing for our sisters, our daughters and our mothers), Landgrabber (landgrabber .. you don’t impress me. Power and greed equals inadequacy) and sung along to the anthemic eponymous Dirty Field Whore, take the time to sit down and listen in detail to the heart-wrenching joy that is Bag Full of Holes (Time doesn’t heal, it just offers you a deal. Nothing to lose, Just the risk of one more bruise) before settling in your chair and wallowing in the delight of When Goodbye Was Some Other Day, a song so beautifully sung that you could be forgiven for not wanting to suture the deep wounds whose blood fed the words being sung.’

Graham Parker, Macstock

Seeing Red (& black) is available from the online shop, iTunes etc. or listen online at Reverbnation.

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