Vin Garbutt, Word of Mouth, (Home Roots Music 1999)
The BBC held a poll last year to find out who their listeners regarded as the best live folk act in Britain. The answer (much to the surprise of \\\"Auntie Beeb,\\\" I suspect) was Vin Garbutt. Anyone who\\\'s actually seen Garbutt perform wasn\\\'t surprised in the slightest, as the man is a consummate entertainer who peppers his performances with the kind of tall tales that have audiences weeping with laughter. While this CD won\\\'t get anyone chuckling with mirth, there\\\'s every possibility of a few tears being shed by the listener. There\\\'s a great deal of sadness across the twelve tracks on this album, the majority of them Garbutt compositions.
The opener, \\\"City of Angels\\\", addresses the uncomfortable issue of Thai prostitution. Garbutt reveals himself to be an acutely sensitive songwriter by avoiding slogans and lectures in favour of telling the story of one girl and her family. It\\\'s a masterful combination of words and melody which manages to be compassionate and condemnatory, concise and compelling. Many Green Man readers will have visited the web site of Charles de Lint and noticed the \\\"Don\\\'t Buy Thai!\\\" Link. Anyone who\\\'s been remotely moved by what they found there should listen to this song.
The injustice in Dave Evardson\\\'s \\\"Forty Thieves\\\", lies closer to Garbutt\\\'s home in the North of England. The song tells of how unscrupulous trawler owners send their lorries into fish quays in the dead of night to spirit away the bulk of the catch. This leaves the trawler men (i.e. the guys who have actually been out catching the fish) to collect their bonus on whatever is left behind. A strident delivery from Garbutt with his guitar punching out chords as hard and choppy as the North Sea itself.
\\\"Dark Side of the Moon\\\", concerns the aftermath of the 1982 Falklands war. Written by Islander Rock Bernsten, the song doesn\\\'t take sides, but mourns those who perished in the conflict and laments the devastation of the land that was being fought for. \\\"John you have gone\\\", is a tragic tale of a young man who died after a New Year\\\'s Eve Party with Garbutt in 1979. A soot fall blocked off the chimney in the room that he was sleeping in, and the fumes ensured that he never woke in the new decade. Garbutt simply (and poignantly) observes in the booklet notes that \\\"he was a nice lad, John.\\\"
If, by now, you\\\'re feeling in desperate need of a bit of jollity, it\\\'s duly delivered in the form of a set of tunes from the Garbutt tin whistle \\\"Wilfy Mannion\\\'s Jig/The Wild Irishman/Jamie\\\'s Christening.\\\" This instrumental interlude also provides as good an opportunity as any to credit the musicians on Word of Mouth. Paul Tilley plays keyboards and percussion, Martin Matthews plays cittern, electric guitar and mandolin, Dee Ruane squeezes the B.C. button accordion, Paul Ruane fiddles, Sean Taylor provides the fretless bass and Norman Holmes blows a fine flute and handles a mean bodhran. The superb backing vocals come courtesy of Shelly Henigan.
\\\"Sarajevo\\\", like \\\"Dark Side of the Moon\\\", is a song of someone whose home has been decimated by war. \\\"I never though I\\\'d see this war, where is the peace we\\\'re fighting for?\\\" Stan Graham wrote this one. \\\"The Truth is Irresistible\\\", is a memorable title for a typically thoughtful Garbutt song. The song suggests that Garbutt\\\'s generation (the \\\'60\\\'s teenagers) rejected so much of tradition that they inadvertently created an ethical vacuum for their children.
\\\"Waits and Weeps\\\" is written from the perspective of an oil rig worker missing his wife and home. Garbutt sings this gentle song unaccompanied, a devastating performance rendered almost unbearable by the knowledge that he wrote it for the widows of the 168 men who died in the Piper Alpha disaster of 1988. \\\"Beyond the Pale\\\" lifts the mood with a clatter drums and a robust tale of a rural Irishman gone \\\"to the bad\\\" in Dublin and London. Possibly the only Irish emigration ballad to contain the phrase \\\"sex and drugs and rock \\\'n\\\' roll.\\\"
\\\"The Beggars Bridge,\\\" tells the heart warming, historical tale of Tom Ferris. It\\\'s a superb piece of storytelling which would only be diminished by giving the game away here! \\\"Time and Tide\\\", (by Beth Lyall and John Crookes) starts with the sort of chorus that makes you want to grab an acoustic guitar and learn the song on the spot. The song is about the launching of the Richmond, the last great ship to built at Swan Hunters on the River Tyne. If you do attempt the song, be warned, as there\\\'s some tricky chords tucked away in that rolling melody. Believe me, I\\\'ve tried to find them. The CD finishes with \\\"The Troubles of Erin\\\" which Garbutt wrote in Ireland in 1994 when the IRA ceasefire was proclaimed. The song chronicles \\\"the troubles\\\" from 1969 and contains this simple chorus. \\\"May the troubles of Erin be over. May the bubble of peace be preserved. May the white dove inspire the children of Ireland, peace is the least they deserve\\\". It\\\'s a song that\\\'s been taken up and sung in pubs and sessions on both sides of the Irish Sea, surely the highest possible compliment to it\\\'s composer.
Anyone who regards \\\"folk music\\\" as an interchangeable term with \\\"easy listening\\\" is in for something of an awakening from this CD, but the shock will be an exhilarating, rather than unpleasant one. Garbutt is an uncompromisingly intelligent moralist who uses his observational and anecdotal skills to work thought provoking masterpieces without recourse to hectoring or piety. He\\\'s also a superbly gifted tunesmith, a skilled arranger and an authoritative singer.