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UNION JILL - Respectable Rebellion

UNION JILL - Respectable Rebellion
Union Jill Music UJMCD0113

This is an album that has a lot to live up to. Let’s start with the fact it has two producers: when they are the inestimable Clive Gregson and the legendary John Wood, expectations have to be high – as would recriminations if the project failed. Normally an acoustic, multi-instrumental duo, Helen and Sharon have decided to augment their sound with an impressive band (Clive on a range of instruments, Fairport’s Ric Sanders, Andy Seward, Kate St John and one of Britain’s most underrated drummers Mark Boyce).

This is quite a pedigree for what is, effectively, the first album by Union Jill. (The duo had made a couple of earlier albums under the Google-unfriendly name of TWO). Everything comes together – literally as this was mostly recorded live in the studio – to provide an iridescent and constantly relevant context to enhance a beautifully judged collection of 13 finely crafted original songs.

Queen Of Holloway, the album’s title track, celebrates a Surragist pioneer; Witch Hunt shines a modern light on Matthew Hopkins; Red On The Stair, the album’s chilling conclusion makes us question our own blind eye for violence.

These are not accusatory, finger-pointing songs, rather they are intelligently crafted economic portraits that flood the brain with vivid visuals and leave us no option but to consider the consequences. Essentially, they are the epitome of understatement.

Morecambe Bay deals with a tragedy that others have explored before in song. Here the slave-labouring cockle-pickers are seen distant, intriguing and involving, their existence terminated in a cataclysm of electric fiddle before a conclusion of uneasy familiarity that is one of the most moving moments I have heard on record for years.

Impeccably produced, performed, written and realised, Respectable Rebellion is quite simply an album worthy of classic status.

Nigel Schofield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 97 of The Living Tradition magazine.