We Are Muffy - Charcoal Pool

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2018-07-20
We Are Muffy - Charcoal Pool
We Are Muffy - Charcoal Pool

First of all, God save The Kinks. God save the village green. Then God save Cornwall. And, last of all, for Pete’s sake, God save We Are Muffy. Their Charcoal Pool is one of those highly melodic, wonderfully eccentric, and very British albums.

Bruce Springsteen sang, “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact/But maybe everything that dies some day comes back.”

Those are pretty much sacred rock ‘n’ roll words.

All right, but the band’s website conjures the magical names of Incredible String Band, Sam Cooke, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Nick Drake, and Shirley and Dolly Collins. Well, in my biased bible, that’s sacred stuff, too.

And, of course, Nick Duffy is from The Lilac Time.

So, let’s just say this one comes, to quote the title of my favorite novel, with Great Expectations.

And it does not disappoint. Basically, this is modern folk music, with joint male and female voices, but this echoes the long-ago sound of a record cut in 1969 and released on labels like Harvest, Deram, Vertigo, and Dawn. I know because I was there.

A few ideas:

Nick Duffy has a wonderful and very English voice, not unlike Kevin Ayers or Richard Sinclair from Caravan fame. His younger brother, Steven, who sang lead vocals in The Lilac Time, sounded like Al Stewart. I call that even.

Angeline Morrison, the other vocalist on this record, has a great voice, too. Once again, I’d call that even.

I hear all that great folky English stuff, but Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away” is a longshot reference. But I’ll concede “A Change Is Gonna Come.” I hear the hope and beauty of that tune in this music.

The Civil Wars (Joy Williams and John Paul White) with their male and female vocals, great tunes, and backward glance at harmony, lit alternative folk music on fire. Nick Duffy and Angeline Morrison, with their We Are Muffy band, could well do the very same thing.

The songs are seemingly simple and very melodic. “Civil Service” has harmonized vocals that discuss the merits of, well, what civil service workers do all day. A trumpet bleats in the back ground. Again, fans of the late and great Kevin Ayers and his languid delivery will enjoy this tune. The same is true for “Precious Things,” which elevates the harmonized voices into a sublime orbit. And Nick’s instrumental work (he plays banjo, ukulele, violin, bouzouki, and I assume guitar)) is quietly complex, just like Nick Drake’s playing on say, “Which Will” of “Ride” from Pink Moon. “Outskirts” is even deeper folk, which adds a recorder to the soft mix. Apparently, when singing about “fourteen stops from town,” the reference is a memory about growing up in Birmingham. As stated, this is a very British album. I mean, even the cover photo of a Sir Giles Gilbert designed telephone box makes me crave a McVitie’s Digestive Biscuit.

And, by the way, Angeline echos the musical talent with her guitar, double bass, autoharp, and percussion playing.

This record resurrects music that resurrected music from the past. That’s all right. Odd, I always enjoy looking at a chicken and thinking about an egg; but I also always enjoy looking at an egg and thinking about a chicken. And I suppose that’s why Stonehenge, an incredibly British iconic postcard photo icon, is circular in construction, as is coincidently, a Mcvitie’s Digestive Biscuit; and of course, the same thing can be said about the compact disc and the circular vinyl album of this recording. And that just means this record has deep curly roots, and The Boss was right about good stuff circling around and coming back.  Ah, but when Angeline Morrison takes the lead vocal, all Sixties’ pop sunshine breaks through the English (often) overcast sky. “Frosted Candy” is absolutely irresistible. (Of course, the very same thing can be said about those Digestives, especially the chocolate ones!) But her lead vocals are pure pop bliss. The brief thirty-second “Black Attracts Heat” is melody condensed to my English setter pup’s attention span. “The Charcoal Pool” is dramatic, and certainly would not have been out of place on Peter Bellamy’s classic The Transports. And then there is “Jacobean Reggae,” which recalls the sound of the great lost band, The Fellow Travellers, from whose ashes rose solo work from Jeb Loy Nichols.

“Unsuitable Footwear,” is a duet that, quite frankly, is the best Richard Thompson song that RT never wrote since Clive Gregson and Christine Collister’s song “I Specialize” from their Mischief album.

“Strange Admixture” is simple: two voices and a sweetly plucked instrumental backdrop.  It’s also magical like the spirit of misty where all of this was recorded. So again, God save the place.

Several of the songs, like “The Map and the Light” (what a vocal!) and “Coloured Pencils,” have voices backed by a harmonium. It’s all very beautiful in a plaintive sort of way. “The Map” also adds a melodica.  And, of course, various birds with their bird songs captured live during this intimate record, grace the grooves of this album.

The last song, “The Lost Carpenter,” continues the sad beauty. It’s about “tomorrow.” It’s about passion. It’s about harmony. It’s all about a slow appetite for a melody. It may well be about religion. And, ultimately, it’s just a song about all that stuff that sang to the stars and to the turning of the seasons, just like the best of all that British folk music from way back then, a time when patience and harmony reigned, and spaces were found, within the moments and whispers of life, to enjoy music such as this.

 

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