Cast Iron Recordings CIRCD 024
12 songs – 44 minutes
One of the biggest stars in the folk music movement in Great Britain during the 1970s, John Cee Stannard attacks the blues format to deliver this collection of 11 originals and one cover, his second work in the format in a career that’s stretched back more than 40 years.
A solid guitarist and songwriter, Stannard achieved cult status in the 1970s as founding member of Tudor Lodge, a folk ensemble featured at festivals drawing crowds of up to 150,000 music lovers, which toured through the 1980s. He’s worked as a radio host and actor, appearing in small roles in several box office blockbusters, including The DaVinci Code, James Bond Skyfall, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. He began shifting to the blues in 2011 after penning several songs in the genre that struck a positive chord. “It’s as if I’d finally found my voice,” he says. It was a dream he’d nurtured for decades.
Those tunes and several that followed comprise his first blues release, The Doob Doo Album, out of which Blue Horizon was formed. The band’s a trio, featuring Mike Baker on second guitar and Howard Birchmore on harmonica. They’re joined in the studio by drummer Julian Bown, bassist Andy Crowdy and violinist Melissa Lynch with Alex Steer appearing on tambourine and Alison Rolls contributing backing vocals. The sound they produce is modern while being somewhat a throwback to that of many of the small folk-blues groups that played coffeehouses in America in the 1960s. The material’s highly original, and is delivered clean, in a straightforward manner with Birchmore’s harp prominent in the mix throughout.
Available through CDBaby or any of the major download sites, the album kicks off with “Solitary Vacation With The Blues,” a sweet number about meeting a woman who appears out of nowhere to turn the singer’s life around in a positive way.” It features a bright, upbeat acoustic guitar line with harp response. The trip continues with “Bus Depot,” a syncopated country blues memory of a dark, damp wayside where Stannard’s character landed after the end of a love affair. The theme continues with “Hard Times – 83,” about an investment in a company that fails. The figure in the title refers to the age of the subject at the time the firm failed…and the age at which he wishes he’d died, too.
“Lady Luck” is a heartfelt plea for better times, followed by “I’ll Take Care Of Mine,” which affirms the singer’s resolve atop some solid brush work on the skins and an all-too-brief guitar solo. A spritely cover of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s Alright” precedes “Blues In My Life,” an image-filled complaint about how the mood colors the singer’s life. The moody “Flood Water” features a repetitive slide line to drive home the feeling of the water rising steadily since the singer’s woman’s left home.
The music brightens for “When You Need Them Most,” while the theme of lost love and life lived in reverse gear carries forward as the singer yearns for friends to lift him up when they’re only letting him down. “Bad Luck Rain” features a Spanish-style guitar intro before Stannard addresses his troubles as the personification of the title and demands it leave town. The album concludes with “Best I Can For You,” which delivers a lounge band feel, and “Not Until It’s Gone,” an uptempo country blues number that about being unable to understand the depth of loss until the separation already has occurred.
If your tastes run toward acoustic folk blues, you’ll enjoy this one. The instrumentation is sharp throughout and the songs, which being familiar in theme, sparkle with originality.