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RAY HEARNE - Umpteen

RAY HEARNE - Umpteen
No Masters NMCD46

I first heard Ray Hearne through the singing of the great Roy Bailey, maybe 20 years ago, and since then Ray’s output has hardly been prolific. I think Umpteen is only his third CD in all that time but he has stayed true to his South Yorkshire roots, the area he grew up in.

He takes familiar tunes, adding his own words to make them his own. On Umpteen, for example, he uses Maggie Boyle’s tune for Lord Gregory as the basis for Ray’s The Quinn Twins And Harrison whilst The Kid Who Killed The Milkman uses the melody of Slieve Gallen Braes. But all the time it is Ray’s words which are important.

Umpteen is a collection of 14 songs taking themes linked to the aspirations of those communities, based around steel and coal production, which have been systematically destroyed over the years. His stories evoke the area, language, the bleakness and their sense of hope for the future.

Highlights for me change each time I hear the CD but The Hales Of Henry Street is particularly strong, with some wonderful brass playing by Jude Abbott. Belinda O’Hooley provides some amazing keyboards to The Longest Hot Summer, as only she can. The final track, Hearts Of Steel, is dedicated to those, especially women, who were so important in the history of steelmaking in Sheffield. I think I read recently that the Women Of Steel campaign has managed to erect a statue to commemorate their place in the history of that industry. I first heard of the ship The Old Trincomalee at last year’s Hartlepool Festival so Ray’s song is of particular interest as well as being an interesting story.

All in all, Umpteen is what you would expect - another excellent addition to No Masters’ catalogue as well as a very good quality album by the Chair of that collective. What first hit me as I picked up the CD was the warmth, captured in black and white by Sheffield photographer Karl Hurst, and the enthusiasm Ray generates. It’s been a long time since Ray Hearne last produced an album. Let’s hope it’s not as long till his next, but in the meantime, sit back and enjoy this one. That’s what I plan to do.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.