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No Masters NMCD44

Most will be familiar with Jim Boyes as one third of Coope Boyes & Simpson, older readers will remember him as part of the amazing Swan Arcade. Few will be aware of Jim as a solo singer (I think he has only made one disc before this) but others might just have noticed his song writing contributions to CBS. There is no doubt that Sensations Of A Wound is his most ambitious and the most personal project yet.

The tag line for this CD is: “The Long, Long Trail of Robert Riby Boyes”, who was better known as Croppie and was Jim’s grandfather. For a long time, CBS have been at the forefront of the Peace Concerts and it was on one of these that Jim decided to research Croppie’s story, but found there was only a recently discovered 1933 account of his experiences for him to go on.

Through a mixture of newly written songs and traditional material, including some in the time honoured manner of parodies of popular tunes of the period, Jim tells the story of Croppie’s war. As a mark of respect for this amazing story, all are quite simply told, letting the words literally do the talking. It’s an emotional journey for the listener, but nothing compared to that of Private Croppie Boyes, though it’s certainly not a downbeat one.

I think I counted six countries it took him through, but probably the most surprising bit was when he was captured by the Germans after being left wounded on a stretcher in No Man’s Land, and being operated upon, on a moving train, without anaesthetic!

I am only going to highlight two tracks specifically but all are worthy of mention. Firstly, Angel Of Sleep is a poem written by Croppie on the journey after his operation and set to music by Jim, which had me in tears. Secondly, Testament pays tribute to the fallen aircrew in WW2, of which Jim’s uncle and Croppie’s eldest son, was one.

The whole album features the wonderful keyboard playing of Belinda O’Hooley who seems to have that ability to bring out the best in any song. For me, she adds something special to this fantastic project. Jim’s rich vocals fit perfectly with her talented playing and make Sensations Of A Wound one of the better WW1 themed albums released to commemorate the centenary of such a momentous, albeit horrific event.

There are excellent, informative song notes by Jim and Georgina Boyes, great images including maps showing the stages of Croppie’s trail. In fact, the whole project is well packaged and produced. The duo has a limited number of live appearances over 2015 which should be well worth looking out for.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.