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BRIAN PEARSON - Here’s To Song 

BRIAN PEARSON - Here’s To Song 
Private Label BP001 

Brian’s name is one that sounds instantly familiar – and indeed, he’s been around and active on the folk scene since the 60s, initially as a resident at St. Albans Folk Club, founder member of the Critics Group, and over the decades appearing on recordings alongside Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger and other luminaries such as Roy Bailey, Blowzabella and Leon Rosselson. Considering that he’s been writing songs for close on 60 years, though, it comes as quite a surprise that Here’s To Song is the now-81-year-old Brian’s first solo album. It contains 13 self-penned songs, thus bringing the total he’s released this year up to 16 (the remaining three songs – Four Seasons, Dead Funny and Earth, Air, Fire & Water – having surfaced on Frankie Armstrong’s most recent CD).

After many years of resisting calls to record his own songs, Brian eventually got down to this at the instigation of Ben Webb of Brighton-based outfit, Bird In The Belly. And even then, Brian had only just managed to record his voice tracks, at the Brighton studio owned by BiTB’s Tom Pryor, before COVID and lockdown struck. Tom was therefore left to work with those tracks and provide supportive arrangements for the songs. He skilfully conjures up a variety of sounds and textures, ranging from gentle keyboard and string timbres and guitars to stirring drumbeats. Three songs are left unaccompanied.

The subject matter ranges over what might be thought traditionally ‘folky’ topics and preoccupations – love, drink, navvies, the Peasants’ Revolt, elves, climate catastrophe, the seasonal cycle, mortality. There’s an appealingly workmanlike, slightly old-fashioned (in a good sense) feel to Brian’s writing, a worldly perspective and solid folksong craftsmanship whereby the songs get their message across companionably and (with the possible exception of eco-rant Ecopalypse Now) commendably concisely. This accessible quality extends to his singing, where at times I detect a distinct influence from role-model Roy Bailey (again not a bad thing!). Evidently, then, Brian’s many years of folk-scene experience have informed his own music in all the right ways.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 140 of The Living Tradition magazine