While us music lovers can take it to our hearts and listen to it for the rest of our lives, for the songwriter, a great song can freeze their art into a moment in time and leave their subsequent work neglected. Alternatively, a great song can also define a record and overshadow the rest of its songs.
‘My Name Is Dessie Warren’ is a great song.
Written by Liverpool songwriter Alun Parry, the subject matter deals with the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign and highlights the continued fight for an official pardon for the people targeted by the state during the national building strike in the 1970?s. Dessie was one of those people and he died in 2004.
Parry’s song dominates his latest album, ‘When The Sunlight Shines’, and its defiant melody casts a long shadow over the rest of the record. Quite simply, it’s stunning and reduced this writer to tears upon my first listen.
It’s not all about the story, either. Parry and producer Jon Withnall have tackled the delicate lament with a lightness of touch and updated the folk singer’s palette, with brush strokes of violin, piano and precise percussion. It really is heartbreaking.
But does it overshadow Parry’s third album? Not really. It’s the best thing on the record, by some distance, but slices of folksy Americana, like the bouncy ‘Bring Love’, the lilting ‘Over The Water’ and the lovely ‘After All Of This Time’, all sound great.
‘The People’s Midwife’ is another standout song and a tune that really benefits from the songwriter’s decision to bring in a band to record this album. The music never distracts from the tale being told, but it does broaden the listening experience and it’s a development I hope Parry continues to explore.
The melodies, in the folk tradition, are often as old as the hills and a little mandolin riff here, or a piano run there, just sharpen the tune and update the music, with the result being an album that sounds like it was made by a band playing together in a room, with everybody serving the song.
True, sharper editing (the album runs to 15 songs) would have trimmed the record of a couple of fillers, but its lyrical tone appears to thread the songs together and the lyrics have stories to tell.
It’s heavy going at times – but have you looked outside of your window recently? Alun Parry has… and this is his state of the union address.