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Talkative Music TALK005

I was trying to think when it was I first saw Rory McLeod in the flesh. A long, long time ago. Cambridge Folk Festival in 1989 was one gig that springs to mind, but I saw him several times earlier than that, circa 1985-88. I recall one astounding set around then, at The Village Pump Folk Festival at Stowford Manor Farm, Farleigh Hungerford...a festival I attended for many years.

And from the get-go, he had an amazing impact on me. Made me want to throw away my inhibitions and take to the road: he seemed a kind of Jack Kerouac armed with string instruments and harmonica. When the guy says things like this, you just have to jack-in your job...!!

“I've travelled to look for work, to mend a broken heart, to be with someone I longed for. I'd travel to visit friends and on the way I'd make new ones, I'd roam because I was curious to see what was around the next corner, sometimes I travelled to follow the warmer weather and migrate... like the birds and the big whales and fishes do.”

Trilling and inspiring words. Alas though, I was not made of the right stuff, and so job security kept me a prisoner to the 9-to-5 life. But I bought his first two albums and played them to friends, who mainly could not get off on his music. And I wondered why. And then assumed it was a mixture of them never having seen him perform, mixed with the fact that the visual impact of the man could never be captured on audio disc.

And do you know something? With this his tenth album, I am not sure that the status quo has changed that much. Somehow, you need that picture in your head of actually seeing Rory and his band, to get maximum value from this fine CD. Oh for sure, if you have never seen him in live performance, you can still appreciate the album. However, you will not be getting the Gold Standard form of Rory. But interestingly, there is a way that you can get the Real Deal: and that is if, before buying this fine album, you check out him and his band on YouTube, performing in the campsite at Glastonbury Festival.

Right. That said, down to business.

Most of the ten songs on this album were not new to me. I seem to recall Passing The Pain Down as being on his first album, from way back in 1985. And I recall Lonely Mistakes, Sleep Tonight, Joy Of Living, Mariachi’s Love Song and A Cut In Pay as being on previous albums. And minus a liner booklet containing lyrics, it is the usual job one has with Rory in getting his lyrics of his new songs to yield up their meaning: viz. the fact that he sometimes delivers words at motorbike speed, and so it takes several listenings to capture them all.

But hey, what glorious energy there is in this CD. I swear to God that if you surrender yourself to it, you’ll find it – and you – have the energy to glow in the dark.

Throughout, one man rivals Rory in sharing the limelight. I refer to Bob Morgan who positively dazzles on clarinet and saxophone. Not that bassist Richard Sadler and Diego La Verde Rojas on Colombian harp are exactly shrinking violets! The runs on the harp perfectly mirror and match Rory’s swooping-and-soaring vocals, and fill you with joy. And then, add Rory’s harmonica and his tap shoes and spoons, and you have the spark there to light your fire, and this four piece combo will fill you with glee and ensure that the fire will not go out in a hurry.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.