Scott Murray: There Was a Love
By Bill Golembeski (Folking.com)
Scott Murray’s There Was A Love is a lovely record of folk melodies that slow dance amid a piano-graced exquisite band that’s coloured with harp, brass, sax, (occasional) accordion, drums, and bass.
My friend, Kilda Defnut, said, “This record manages, somehow, to soften time – just like a John Keats poem”.
But caution: The first tune, ‘Miss Isobel’, is a piano instrumental in a reflective mood with a minor-key autumnal melody, not unlike something Anthony Phillips (of early Genesis fame!) conjured on any number of Private Parts And Pieces albums. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but lovers of the acoustic guitar ethos of fellow (and contemporary) Scotsmen Dick Gaughan or Dougie MacLean need to retune their expectations and enjoy the lovely emotion of this tune.
The same is true for ‘Flying To Derry’, which paints a portrait of the turn-of-the century Americana piano longings of Randy Newman’s ‘Louisiana 1927’ from his brilliant Good Old Boys album.
Ditto for ‘The Can’el’, a song blessed with Scott’s deep voice. Once more, Dave Milligan’s piano graces the melody and (oh my!) Mikey Owers brass hovers with ancient dramatic passion. The tune holds the same beauty as (the great!) Ralph McTell’s ‘Sylvia’ or ‘Naomi’. True confession: although not a great lover of brass, I was compelled to spin my vinyl copies of the first Brass Monkey album and Mike Westbrook’s Goose Sause.
Then, ‘Afterlight’ is a molasses paced song which reflects on a cautious life. Again, SM’s vocals are deep and emotive and accented with Corrina Hewat’s haunting harmony while Phil Bancroft’s sax seductively caresses a similar theme to Robert Frost’s ‘Road Not Taken’. This is a dense and smoldering stuff. Perhaps, it recalls the stark voice of Jon Mark (he of Mark-Almond fame!) in his days of Songs For A Friend solo record–days before his synthesizer Celtic albums.
There’s more instrumental stuff: ‘Glenhappen Rig’ really gets into street corner Salvation Army Band swing. Thank you, drummer Stuart Brown and bass guy Tom Lyne. And ‘Annie Rae’ is yet another piano interlude.
Then (!), ‘There Was A Sang’ tumbles with Corrina Hewat’s music hall voice, while that sax punctuates the song with a wide open throttle of a colourful and ever hopeful sunrise. There’s a bit of folk jazz here.
‘Strange Days’ pursues even more trad jazz, as musical moments drip upon the bass-throbbed contrasted sound of a fading sunset.
And by the way, There Was A Love will certainly appeal to the folkies who braved the beauty of June Tabor’s two ECM Quercus records (with Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren) that fused jazz with folk song tradition.
The oddly titled ‘George Sanders And The Gypsy Caravan’, again, is a song of intense vocal longing—with brass band tears – and Martin Green’s vintage accordion casting a sepia hue over the solemnity of the wishful tune.
The final instrumental, ‘Miss Margaret’, is yet another turn-of-the century melodic concoction (with scat vocals) that eases into the final soft grooves of this record. Let’s just say that there’s more brass and more reflective warmth.
No…there’s not an acoustic guitar to be heard. Certainly, this music is a far cry from SM’s Sangsters days. But this album sings and glides with an ageless depth that, forever and a day, touches the blood of any decent and very human melody.