Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Jack Hayter - Abbey Wood (Gare Du Nord)

The title of Jack Hayter's wonderful new album comes from the road in which he lived four years ago but the symbol that lies at the heart of the album's first track 'The Mulberry Tree at Abbey Wood' - which I played in my Dandelion Radio show last month - is loaded with far great depth
In particular the tree - 'you know the one, there's only one' as its lyrics tell us - stand as a metaphor that's explored throughout the collection.  It's a collection that's rich with feelings of solitude, yet it's a resilient solitude, loaded with a defiant spirit that manages to survive despite hostile surroundings.
On the surface, it's an album about places, but really it's about the people who give those places their character, characters like 'Fanny On The Hill', who serves up a liquid dinner with 'whisky for pudding'
Or the narrator of 'I Sent My Love To Bendigo', who fights his war in the farmyard, in attempt to stop the army from taking his beloved horse to war.  His brother goes to war in order to end the fighting with his girlfriend over the issue, only to return, broken, to hang himself at Christmas.  Under its original title of 'Horsemeat For Dogs', we featured an early version of the track on an Unwashed Territories compilation.  Its redolence has not diminished in the year since.
Similarly 'The Arandora Star', the tale of the ship loaded with British-based Italian and German civilians that was sunk during World War II, offers much poignancy against a backdrop of the sad xenophobia of these times.    As with Woody Guthrie's 'Deportees', the power lies in the evocation of individual lives behind the tragedy - the Italian women who'd helped to build bombers in north Manchester among them - leaving again a sense of real people devoured by circumstances they had no role in instigating.   I'm playing the track in my show this month.
it's a powerful collection, but it's also infused with a gentle, kind spirit.  A celebration of people and places, no less who, like the Mulberry Tree, still stand defiant despite it all.  Among them, unquestionably, stands Hayter himself.

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