Yee Ha With the Ree-Vahs!
Love in a North Eastern Town Brought To Life In Song.
As I said last time, I’m not normally a lover of Folk Music; but when a band comes from my home town I’m prepared to give it more than a cursory listen, and I’m glad I did because The Ree-Vahs previous release Geordieland was a rare treat and came close to being in my 2014 Top 10.
Thankfully (for me) Andy Lee and band have carried on from where they left off; telling tales of a small once prosperous town in their local NW Durham flat dialect.
Sunshine which opens the album could be straight from the Bellowhead songbook; with a timeless ‘love through adversity’ story set to a classic Folky mix of acoustic guitars, fiddle, drums and possibly an accordion in the background.
A delightful piece of piano playing introduces the delightfully dark story behind Hundreds and Thousands. The third time I heard this song it genuinely stopped me in my tracks; as it was/is scarily close to my early relationship with the girl whom I was to marry; and like the narrator I’ve never understood why ‘with hundreds of souls in the village/you chose me.’ But also ‘Do I push you away/When I need you to stay/I never know what you’re thinking.’
If I could write songs I wish I could have written that.
While most of the songs here are about relationships, The Bouncer takes that theme to something of an extreme. A jealous man driven by ‘rage and jealousy/that’s not me’ knows she is going to leave him; and knows she should……but he tries to cling on. Lee’s voice sounds amazing as it comes near to breaking point more than once.
One song I love, but don’t fully understand is Spiderman. Using comic book superheroes as metaphors for ll of the characters inside his head, the singer knows his lifestyle will end in tears; but he can’t help himself……perhaps there’s a little bit of all of us here.
My favourite track; and it will surprise no one who knows me; is The Story of Us. To some extent a companion piece to Hundreds and Thousands; it’s a haunting love story of a couple told through the husband looking back on their life. The addition of cello, piano and guitars in the background make an ordinary Folk Tale quite extraordinary.
Another contender could easily have been Grandma’s Song. An epic narrative going from the couple meeting in 1933 and taking in being told he was killed in WW11 but arriving home ‘after 4 months dead’ and ‘hitting the heights in 75/a Triumph Herald in the drive’ then ‘recession took their house away/the wind blew hard as knives that day/the coldest winter of their lives/nineteen eighty five’.
Maudlin and beautiful hardly do justice to a song as well crafted and lovely as this.
Sadly domestic violence rears it’s ugly head in Black Eyed Susan; but Lee’s way with words and a melody couple to create a fabulous microcosm of a Small rural town that could be anywhere in the civilised world.
The Ree-Vahs and Andy Lee in particular have created a wonderful little album here and it would be a damn shame if it didn’t receive a world wide audience; so don’t let the Pitmatic dialect put you off, it’s not that different to listening to Texas drawl or a wonderfully rich Irish brogue.
#The only draw back is the town featured on the album cover is Stanley’s arch rival, Consett! Although I did take several tinctures in the Turf when I worked in Laws Stores in my younger days.
Released November 2016