PAUL WALKER & KAREN PFEIFFER - The Whole Charade
This Anglo-German duo has a very strong following in and around The Potteries area, and is now beginning to gain some degree of national recognition, well outside the Staffordshire/Cheshire catchment area.
An Paul and Karen have done that latter ambition no harm with this mix of self-penned songs interspersed with the occasional Folk classic. The album arrives in a beautifully presented Digipak: one furthermore, that is a first for me, in that it features photos of exquisite sculptures of the duo’s heads (made by Gillie Nicholls at her Stafford studio).
From even first listening, one is aware that one is in the presence of two very skilled operators. (Three, if you include multi-instrumentalist and album producer Scott Ralph.)
The songs that the duo self-penned cover a range of subject matter, and are all as well-crafted as they are well-performed. Karen has a seriously impressive, mezzo-soprano voice: one that would not be out of place on the opera stage. Yet it is a singing voice that blends very well with Paul’s, and shows not a scintilla of a German accent, in that she sings mainly in RP English (although track 3 sees her sounding peculiarly Irish...or maybe I have my ears on wrong).
And those harmonies are quite stirring and almost Winter Wilsonish in beauty (particularly on the bridge of the title song, and the chorus of the powerful Peter Hames song, Ordinary Man).
Of the self-penned, the standout track is Lift This Weight. It is a song on the present industrial dereliction in Stoke-on-Trent, and a fond memory of very different days when there was the camaraderie to be cherished from what was otherwise a hard working life. Of the famous songs they have chosen to cover, they do very respectable versions of classics like Caledonia, What’s The Use Of Wings?, and The L&N Don’t Stop Here Any More: versions that don’t make me pine for the originals.
This album will get a thumbs up from me, but I want to end a favourable review with a word of warning. Please don’t flag-up the fact that you are offering two bonus tracks to the 11, when the track that opens the CD is (after a few seconds of a music box intro), just 52 seconds of Sir Samuel Ferguson’s The Lark In The Clear Air, which is marked as “Part One”, and track 11 is shown as “Part Two” of the same, and is timed at a similar 50 seconds.
Perhaps that breaking of the lovely Irish song in two (to turn 10 tracks into 11), has a deep meaning that has gone over my head. But I think not: it smacks of a pretentious gimmick. Dear Paul and Karen: don’t do it. You are too good for such ruses.