James Raynard

James Raynard - Strange Histories
Unearthed/One Little Indian TPLP487CD

Raynard is one of a growing band of youthful Folk contemporizers and this largely Trad:arr. album is good news for anybody awaiting this year’s ‘have-you-heard?’ factor to emerge. Based in Yorkshire, a singer with fiddle, guitar and mandolin he’s been championed by Martin Carthy (“James is willing to take the sort of chances which make music an exciting place in which to work”) - an influence that can be discerned from time to time, with ‘The Loathsome Worm And The Mackerel Of The Sea’ being the best Child text that Martin never reworked. That said, James is no plagiarist and he’s engagingly honest about such mentoring, plus that of Gina Le Faux and producer Jim Moray.

There is much to admire here from the sedate 17 th century ‘catch’ or round of ‘Yonder He Goes’ (Playford) to the harsh beauty in the starkness of ‘The Outlandish Knight’ set to an anonymous medieval tune. An intriguing farrago of sounds, moods and texture, this is music that knows where its come from but perhaps more importantly, where its heading. A student of Sheffield University ’s Folklore Course, Raynard clearly values the legacy of his source material and this recording can only help to validate it for the young, hip and cool. That said, there’s no room for head-scratching theses or count-the-note flashiness, it’s an accessible and truly varied batch of songs and tunes. ‘The Overlander’ with an almost throwaway vocal, burns with a roughshod appeal whilst the fluent ‘A Caveat For Cutpurses’ takes some beating for sheer verve.

A Bob Dylan awaiting its ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ and in places a rather earnest album to listen to, but it evokes that feeling of something going on which won’t be fully appreciated ‘til later.

Clive Pownceby