"For whom the willow weeps"
Hazel Davis - folkin' cool www.folkin'cool.com
Mary Humphreys - Mardles www.suffolkfolk.co.uk
Mike Blair - Unicorn Magazine www.shirefolk.org.uk
Brian Jeffels –
For Whom The Willow Weeps (Corngold Music)
But it’s worth saying that I read the lyrics sheet long before I put the damned thing on, having half written the review in my head already.
And now I cant take it off. Gah.
The first track, The River, is seductively Poguesish and irresistibly catchy. The second, Dilemma, is wistful and campfirey (again, ignore the words). Blow Out The Candle has a touch of the Christy Moores about it (I’m being generous but I can’t help it, he’s infected me) and is actually dead cute. Even Morwenstow, with its hammy fake Cornish accent, is lovely. It’s raw, not always in tune and could do with "something" but I’m not sure that something wouldn’t spoil it.
In short, I am SURE I shouldn’t, but I really like this disc. Bugger, bugger, bugger.
This is Brian's first solo CD. He is a multi-instrumentalist, balladeer and singer songwriter living in Bedfordshire where his is a familiar face around the sessions and clubs. The CD comprises self-penned songs and tunes arranged by Brian, who is joined by a talented group of musicians on a wide variety of instruments: Carol Scaessens on whistle, Lin Griffin on accordion, Maggie Lonergan and Scott Blundell on fiddles, Vince Gorman on bodhran and Alan Jenkins on guitar. Brian sings with a voice which is reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan and plays guitars, accordion, thumb piano. The lyrics of the songs are very helpfully included with the CD.
The songs are original and very thoughtful. Many have a dark and melancholy tinge and a complex message which is revealed by close attention to the words. Surprisingly given such a wide variety of instrumentalists, the sound on the first few tracks and the penultimate one is very similar. Teaming the accordion with a guitar gives a slightly muddy quality on occasions. Given that slight criticism, most of the later tracks are much more sparse in the use of accompaniments, and all the better for it. I was intrigued by the tune Dublin Breeze which has a lyrically played whistle as lead instrument yet not attributed to any player on the track listing - was it Carol I wonder? (No it was me BJ)
The Cherry Tree is track which has solo accordion backing and is far better for that restraint. Guitar and fiddles weave prettily on Brian's first-ever penned song Butterfly and again the understated accompaniment complements the song beautifully.
There is some crisp and deft mandolin playing on The Old Mandolin, although elsewhere, on Abigail's Waltz the instrument was slightly out of tune with itself. I question the reasons for putting two tunes back-to-back on the CD when perhaps they could have been spread out to give a more varied and satisfying listening experience. The Wild Flowers - a very long and desolate song about a cruel betrayal and massacre during the Irish War of Independence makes for a depressing end to the CD. I kept wishing for one of the jolly instrumentals to cheer me up!
For details of how to get the CD and more information about Brian and his musical collaborations visit his website on www.brianjeffels.com
This album contains 15 of Bedfordshire born Brian's own compositions, mostly songs, but also a few tunes. Singing and playing accordion, guitar and mandolin, he is accompanied on most of the tracks by one or two of the 6 other musicians.
Some of Brian's traditional sounding themes stretch the imagination a little, for instance in 'Waltzing with the Moon' why is Sally the only girl n the village whose man is away at the war? In 'The Butterfly' I found it a pity that the girl who admits to being afraid of commitment comes across as honest but chronically unfaithful.
Songwriting is far from easy - much harder than criticism -but I do wish Brian had spent more time with his lyrics, some of which are frankly ill- fitting. The right word in the right place is what makes poetry and rhythm out of an idea.
There is also a familiarity to some of Brian's tunes. It took me a while to realise that the main tune to the opening song 'The River' is 'Where Ravens Feed' only quicker; and the lengthy 'Wild Flowers', a true story about the betrayal and massacre of Irish rebels, is rather too much Christy Moore sings Leonard Cohen.
I had to search Brian's website for the thinking behind the songs, as the sleeve notes reveal very little except the words. Nowhere, however could I find why it is called 'For Whom the Willow Weeps'
CD available from www.brianjeffels.com