UNDER ONE SKY - Under One Sky

UNDER ONE SKY - Under One Sky
Navigator Records: Navigator3

Under One Sky is a John McCusker album in almost every respect: he wrote most of the music, plays on most of the tracks, co-produced the recording and had the original idea for the project.  But Under One Sky is a musical collaboration and the joy of this album lies as much in the contributions of the 11 other musicians as it does in McCusker’s overall concept.

The list of collaborators is a roll-call of some of Britain’s finest contemporary folk artists.  The playing and singing are uniformly excellent throughout the seven tracks, though Julie Fowlis, Jim Causley and Andy Cutting deserve special mention for their contributions.  John Tams is also to be congratulated, not only for his lyrics and singing but also for his sleeve notes – an imaginative and romantic literary work.

One track stands out as a potential classic: Graham Coxon’s ‘All Has Gone’. The song bears little resemblance to any other composition on the album, although its pared-down beauty puts me in mind of Nick Drake’s ‘Rider On The Wheel’. Coxon’s untutored vocal stands in sharp contrast to the stylish delivery of Fowlis or Causley on earlier tracks but perfectly fits the song’s mood.

The album’s publicity refers to it as a ‘vocal and instrumental suite’, but this seems a rather pretentious and ultimately unnecessary description.  There is no obvious musical theme running across the individual pieces and no shared narrative between the songs, and although McCusker takes the majority of the writing credits most of the other artists are also credited as composers or lyricists.  Pressing the ‘shuffle’ button won’t dilute the pleasure to be gained from listening to this beautifully produced and performed album.

Bruce Lindsay

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This album was reviewed in Issue 82 of The Living Tradition magazine.