Tracey Curtis: Thoughts In The Dark – album review

Tracey Curtis ‘Thoughts In The Dark’ (Irregular Records)
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Welcome and long overdue release of the third album from Tracey Curtis; Curtis describes herself as an anarchist, a vegan, an activist and mother who bases herself in Ammanford, West Wales. Tracey was a member of the truly wonderful Shellys Children a band who delivered some of the most biting lyrics of the late 80’s all wrapped up in hook laden glittering perfect pop. Check out the compilation ‘Everything’ (Damaged Goods) which features…well the clue is in the title; Shellys Children split in 91’ re-emerging later that year as Cuckooland minus Tracey. Cuckooland operated in a similar vein and with the release of ‘Winter’ even picked up the accolade Single of The Week on Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session on Radio 1.

Tracey Curtis however put music on hold as she focussed her attention upon her growing family; it was her family who eventually forced her to return; in 2004 Tracey was involved in a campaign against the proposed Ammerford by-pass. In the hope of gaining press attention Tracey booked time in a local studio to record a protest song; the song was recorded live in 3 minutes; with the remaining 57 minutes Tracey recorded a number of other songs she had written which were subsequently self released as ‘Close To Home’ – the CD came to the attention of Robb Johnson renowned folk singer and head of Irregular Records who has previously released Tracey’s ‘If The Moon Could Talk’ and ‘Picture Postcards’ albums.

The adage ‘less is more’ has never resonated more loudly than upon ‘Thoughts In The Dark’; the entire album is simply Tracey and her acoustic guitar; except for a brief appearance from Boff Whalley (Chumbawamba) – over twelve tracks Curtis writes songs of conviction that are laced with humour, and camaraderie for working people and the wider community.

‘Don’t Sit Silently’ a song she wrote in defence of the NHS during which she encourages people to protest to the proposed Government enforced changes to an institution that “belongs to us”; the melodic folk-pop of ‘How Do They Do The Things That They Do?’ as she tries to comprehend how people like her own grandfather retain the ability to be caring family members having either partaken in or witnessed the violence of war. It is these very experiences that she draws upon that enables her to sing with such compassion and empathy, the poignant ‘Cancer Song’ which she co-wrote with Boff Whalley is presented as a call and response between two people who have experienced the strains of their parents both fighting cancer; ‘Raising Girls & Boys’ is plea for sensible parenting, whilst on ‘Love Birds’ she simply declares “I love you, I love you, I love you” with characteristic charm and sincerity.

‘Thoughts In The Dark’ is a brave recording, it is simply Tracey’s voice and her guitar; simply arranged, there are just a few over dubbed harmonies – in such circumstances her lyrics, written with emotion, intelligence (and that rare commodity common sense) take on even more significance; Tracey lays herslf bare for scrutiny – there are no power chords, or crashing drum beats to hide behind and as such even if you didn’t fully endorse Tracey’s stance you cannot help but admire her, she remains a political singer; she expresses her views directly but does not allow herself to engage in a rant – a perfectly balanced album full of wit, charm and humour; just listen to ‘The Head Louse Song’ as Tracey with her staunch vegan beliefs enters into a contract with one such little ‘friend’ who then betrays their agreement by breeding…

An understated gem; in short, a joyous recording.

Tracklist:

1 Square Peg listen
2 Don’t Sit Silently
3 How Do They Do The Things They Do?
4 The Cancer Song
5 Raising Girls And Boys
6 Love Birds listen
7 Spacman
8 Sasha’s Song
9 Another Tescotown listen
10 Violet
11 The Head Louse Song
12 A Hundred Years Of Football

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