Helen McCookerybook – The Sea (Big Song)
CD / DL
8 / 10
Musician, artist and lecturer releases her new album. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.
A little bit of folk, a little bit of Country, jazz, alternative pop, Helen McCookerybook crams it all in. Acoustically led, her songs are of love, politics and quite possibly, the kitchen sink, and her voice is pure as crystal. Her voice is so pure in fact that every word, every syllable even, can be easily heard and digested as she unravels fascinating tales.
Helen’s new album is no exception. It is quite obviously often personal affair. Songs of lost love and break-up, of deceit and betrayal find themselves nestled in amongst recitals of depression (Mad Bicycle Song) and immigration (The Sea). Such is the calibre of song writing on display here that serious subjects seem sugar coated in joy and happiness. It’s quite a juxtaposition and one that sees a talented songwriter indeed.
It’s maybe a far cry from Helen’s early ventures in punk with liaisons with the Monochrome Set and Piranhas, and her own band The Chefs but somehow the anarchic attitude is still there. Despite the more laid back, alternative pop feel, The Sea still manages to address issues that are evident from the often cutting lyrics. The title track being one such piece as it tackles the hotbed of immigration and is given a subtle ‘dedication’ to President Trump.
Bird Talk has an underlying reggae feel and Big Brother has that ‘familiar’ feel which acts as a comfort from the very first note, but it’s on tracks like Give Us Another Chance (with additional guitar from engineer Jono Bell) and Happy Ever After Man where the sombre words really do hit home quite strongly. Loss and hurt are gently wrapped in some lovely guitar playing and Helen’s voice is as pure as can be.
Martin Stephenson makes a guitar appearance on opener Summer Days and adds uke to the title track but the rest is the sole work of Helen, down to backing vocals which sound like an angelic cavalcade. It’s easy to think this album is twee in parts but given an airing the true beauty and seriousness is unravelled. It’s a work of fascinating and inspirational quality and one which has quite rightly already seen her championed by the likes of Gideon Coe on Radio 6.
Buy this cd and play it alone, listen to the words whilst absorbing yourself in some accomplished guitar work but most of all, cherish this album as it is a fine piece of work.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog and you can follow him on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.