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COMMONERS CHOIR - Untied Kingdom 

COMMONERS CHOIR - Untied Kingdom 
No Master’s Co-operative NMCD54 

Five years ago, this self-styled “rag-bag ensemble of Yorkshire commoner folk” came out of the woodwork and convened “to sing harmonious insurrection, to rouse the rabble and to raise a smile or two”. Ably mentored and steered by ex-Chumbawamba singer-songsmith-supremo, Boff Whalley, its members were actively encouraged to construct, arrange and perform original songs which, while candidly exploring the state of the nation, both inspired and empowered their listeners in the process. Their eponymous 2017 debut CD stirred the pot of dissent with its exhilarating display of human voices singing together a cappella (“just voices, that’s all”), all the while miraculously managing to combine gutsy, edgy delivery with well-drilled precision in incorporating lusty unison, ingenious part-writing and surprisingly beautiful harmonies.

The Choir’s gloriously chaotic spirit blazes even brighter on this follow-up record, whose gleefully typo-free title proclaims all the pride and passion and positivity of commoners’ lives and actions which make a difference in today’s world. Their songs shout out loud and proud in anger and celebration: some decidedly pithy in their economy of expression, others forming quite epic portraits of, and soundtracks to, this place we call home. With its expanded complement (now approaching 70 voices!), the Choir has also shifted gear from taunting playground rhymes and pure air-punching agit-prop to producing thought-provoking, relentlessly trundling widescreen edifices like True North and Not The National Anthem (the latter a collaboration with Mark Thomas), alongside honed-in close-focusing on local stories and issues like The Skelmanthorpe Flag Song and Come On In From The Cold, while the Choir’s extensive folk-memory lineage is ardently summarised in the historical roll-call We Are The Descendants. In the end, the feeling of inclusivity and community is more invigorating (and magnificently overpowering) than ever on this new set.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 133 of The Living Tradition magazine