The Good Earth – Stuart Forester - traditional emphasis through contemporary invention(February 19, 2018)
Some songwriters are blessed with a voice that brands their songs with a distinctive mark, there’s no need to investigate who writes their music. One such is Stuart Forester ... listen and the results are self-evident ... these songs could come from no one else. They also have an enduring quality, which may exist in this time and place, equally they could belong to a time long gone. This capability reflects Forester’s command of traditional emphasis through contemporary invention. From the classic offering ‘A Yard of Ale, back in 2013, which laid down a serious marker for his work, now comes ‘The Good Earth’ ... the emphasis has changed, the experiences more focused ... hardly surprising given the impact of the intervening years.
The echoes of loss, reflections on place, musing on the vagaries of time and pensive observations on travels, have combined to generate songs with considerable lyrical presence. Add to that, carefully crafted instrumentation positioned to give precisely the right foundation, and it’s a fair bet ‘The Good Earth’ will cut a deeper furrow into English folk as his previous work. The opener ‘Born In A Blizzard’ delivers the immediate resonance of Forester’s voice, guitar and fiddle engaging, and you’re transfixed (no track skipping here) and held by this album. From there, the mix takes you into a myriad of experiences ... there’s memories of travels in America with the sombre ‘Dead End Road Signs’, the raw truths in ‘Red Brick Ballads’, a slice of family reflection in ‘Say Goodbye To Your Grimsby Lass’ while the words of an unknown poet are added to a Forrester tune to shape a song rich in sentiment with ‘Come Where The Willows Are Weeping’.
The high spots are many, in fact there are no ‘lows’, not the suggestion of a ‘filler’ in sight, ‘The Good Earth’ just keeps giving ... explorations of tenderness given free-rein in ‘Walk With Me In The Moonlight Love’, a narrative of seafaring and piracy related through ‘Baltimore’ and drunkenness on the London Underground with ‘London Pride’.
Playing on ‘The Good Earth’ are Stuart Forester (vocals, acoustic guitar, mountain dulcimer, piano, B3 organ, mellotron) Carol Anderson (fiddle) (Jonny Hardie (fiddle) Davy Cattanach (percussion) Rhiannon Campbell (harmony vocal).
Review: Tim Carroll