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PETE MORTON - Flying An Unknown Flag

PETE MORTON - Flying An Unknown Flag
Harbourtown HARCD. 048

This latest collection of original songs from Leicester's finest effortlessly maintains the standard he's set over the years. Although the immediate impression is perhaps of a more relaxed set than Pete's previous offering (the mighty Swarthmoor), there's no lack of depth or commitment in the writing. The songs speak directly for themselves in exactly the way good songs should - reflective commentaries that have no truck with the empty posturing of the soapbox yet are ideally able to make meaningful commentaries on our lives.

One of Pete's special gifts as a songwriter is that he doesn't need to resort to an overt linguistic expression of anger or bitterness to make his point, and his songs are all the better for their succinctness and their thoughtful, cautiously optimistic demeanour. Pete's realism and intrinsic truthfulness are allied to his skilful use of quiet observation, ensuring that imagery is kept simple and universal, easy to relate to and easy to assimilate both in spite of and because of the intelligence with which the words are put together. That quality of directness of thought and simplicity of expression in Pete's writing might suggest to you that maybe, just maybe, Pete's possessed by the spirit of Emily Dickinson (in the touching I'm In Love With Emily Dickinson, Pete walks "the dream between God's love and life's despair")! Pete's sense of bafflement at the ageless conundrums of life, love and living is something we can all identify with, for let's face it, "All the world's within a world in the post office queue"!

When considering romance, Pete's supreme economy of expression makes more from less, as In Another Life proves. Pete takes us on a journey of self-discovery, making us think without preaching. Pete's sense of history, the continuum of human concerns, runs through his songwriting like a consistent thread - from the jovial and catchy opener Harvest, through the softly meditative Further (a standout) and The Shores Of Italy (from the lyrics of which the album gets its title) and on to the chummy reminiscences of The Busker's Song, finally finding its natural conflation in A Love That I Don't Understand, where Pete's imagined situation ("in the year 2090 and still here in Blighty, still trying to make poetry rhyme") calls forth a telling and resigned reflection on the insignificance of human endeavour when set against the laws and processes of nature. I'm not entirely convinced by Pete's decision to end the album with a revisit of his "greatest hit" Another Train, although one could say that it seems to bring the album (and Pete's songwriting career to date) full circle.

Pete's "house band" on the album consists of Neil Segrott, Chris Parkinson and fellow-Urban-Folkster Roger Wilson, and their spirited ensemble sound gives the set an identifiable branding that suits the material - and Pete's personality - down to the ground. The accompanying booklet, interestingly, informs us of the location where each song was written - many were composed at friends' houses (or sheds!) - and full lyrics are included too.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 66 of The Living Tradition magazine.