Folk Me Records
The Broken Heart of Northern Folk
When Andy Lee from the Ree-Vahs got in touch to say a new mini-album was in the offing I got quite excited; as I love their previous two albums; and because they come from my home town of Stanley, Co. Durham and sound a bit like me; it’s a pleasure to give whatever help I can……but…..and it’s a very big ‘but’…..when he told me the background to the songs, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it at all.
The Ree-Vahs are, or should be brothers Andy and Paul Lee; but Paul sadly took his own life as the band were in the final stages of putting this record together.
So; knowing that, the title track MAN OVERBOARD comes in two versions with the first being an eerily prophetic snippet from a home recording by Paul several years ago in his bedroom and the finale is a full band version recorded after his death.
Mercifully this is followed by a more upbeat and slightly anthemic song Pack Your Bags, featuring some classy fiddle and cello from local lasses Catherine Geldard and Katie Hall. It’s not altogether clear what or whom the singer is moving on from; but the sentiment will touch even the coldest of hearts.
The spirit of Paul Lee flits in and out of several songs; especially so on the biographical Jigsaw and Sing Our Songs in the Dark with it’s sub-calypso beat; and a story about the magical feeling of playing records in your bedroom as a teenager.
Andy even includes a love song to his brother with Under The Wheels; a Northern Soap Opera told through the memories of a brother with depression and weaknesses. This is what Folk Music does best; and this song will reduce grown men and women to tears.
Baring in mind the tone and background to this album, I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do to choose a ‘favourite song’ but when the songwriting and presentation as as good as this it’s hard not to; so I will make it a tie between the finished article MAN OVERBOARD, which has echoes of Mark Knopfler around the edges and if you were to hear this song by accident it will truly take your breath away.
The other is Stronger Than Me (non-binary) another beautifully bleak tale; and this one is about teenage bullying and the helplessness it forces on all of the adults around the child.
There’s not many laughs here; but what there is is bundle of songs that are written from the heart and destined to tear at your heartstrings.
Don’t let this record drift into obscurity…….try it, buy it…….cherish it.
Released January 19th 2018