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MIKE WILSON - Taking Shape 

MIKE WILSON - Taking Shape 
Hooky Mat Records HMR026 

The Wilson Family group boasts many mighty singers, but so far only Ken has recorded in a solo capacity (and even then with help from musical friends). Now Mike, after recording two albums in tandem with Damien Barber, embarks on his first solo foray.

Mike is in splendid voice throughout: in entirely solo a cappella mode, with overdubbed chorus harmonies on some tracks. The songs suit his robust delivery well; he’s a very fine, charismatic singer who cherishes and nurtures his chosen songs over years, generously gifting you in turn with the songs, inviting you to “give (the songs) more shape if you fancy moving them along in the future”.

The track list naturally includes some items from Mike’s native north-east. The poignant opener, Janie Foster, is a magnificent setting by Alan Fitzsimmons of Joe Wilson’s words. Mike later builds a convincing three-part sequence using Jock Purdon’s own voice and words to bookend his song, Cotia. Mike adds specific local references to Pete Betts’ Let’s Hope The Clock Stands Still in tribute to Pete and his best mate, the late Vin Garbutt. Another 2017 departure, that of singer/raconteur/spoons champion Bert Draycott, is remembered in Dennis Rowan’s cheeky song, The Coll’ery Baths. The regional contingent is completed by Mick Sheehan’s tribute to Steve Biko and the traditional Bonny Hawthorn (aka The Lealholm Anthem). Outwith the north-east, there’s Roger Watson’s Cold November Night (which deeply resonates with Mike, a former Teesside steelworker), and Rod Shearman’s First-World-War-themed The Forgotten Soldier. Robin Williamson’s October Song, shorn of its third verse, is sung here in memory of Jim and Mu Wilkinson’s son Ted who died when but a teenager.

This CD forms a shapely snapshot; and while I’d probably best avoid using the term “well-rounded” (for risk of appearing unduly circle-biased) I can still safely say this CD deserves a wide circulation, fair and square!

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 131 of The Living Tradition magazine