The Hall of Einar Sunday Review #13

Hello and welcome to my Sunday Review. Every week I read great wildlife and nature books, see engrossing websites and hear wonderful new music – this is my chance to bring you all the best I’ve experienced – every Sunday.
If it’s folk, or independent, or about wildlife, nature or Orkney I may love it, and so may you.

No Place Like Tomorrow – Virginia Kettle

Virginia Kettle is an original songwriter and musician. She’s part of the creative engine in Merry Hell, whose digital downloads I reviewed in The Hall of Einar Sunday Review #12. She has a creative imagination and precision of arrangement that mark her out as a real talent. She also knows how to present herself on stage and make a crowd go wild. I’ve seen her; I know.

No Place Like Tomorrow is a new album, out on 12 July 2020. I’d be quite happy to review music from the 1950s as there’s an unhealthy obsession with everything new. It doesn’t always have to be new to be great, does it? There’s plenty of old music to discover. However, since I’m so in touch with new music that I’m into bands who don’t even exist yet, here’s the new album by Virginia Kettle.

Virginia’s an accomplished vocalist. She sings the way she wants to because she wants to, not because that’s all her voice can be. If she wants to add jazz, folk or blues intonation to her singing style, she can, effortlessly. Listening to No Place Like Tomorrow you can relax knowing you’re in the company of someone who can not just hit every note but who can modify her phrasing at will to add meaning to every killer line. And killer lines there are; plenty of them. “This is the house that Jack built, the house that Union Jack built”, “Growing, growing, gone” and “It’s not what we’ve lost, it’s what we’ve failed to find.”

Many singers know how to say it but have nothing to say; not so Victoria. Every self-written song has a story or a purpose and her songs are beautifully crafted. They have a friendly, wry and, dare I say it, northern outlook. In fact the album reminded me of an obscure, really extreme, 1972 folk album called Pier of the Realm by Keith Roberts. Maybe I detect a Lancastrian outlook on life. The album’s not afraid to be entirely acapella at key moments. At others it’s influenced by show tunes and cabaret. Categorise it in uncategorisable.

Take a listen:

Virginia has a big personality which is bigger than the restrained and cut-down instrumentation which accompanies her. This is music which ought to be wildly popular, if only people would listen to homegrown talent. Made In The Stars would be epic at a huge festival with the crowd singing along, phones aloft. I want to be there; when it’s safe. The penultimate song, Promise of a Sunrise would be the perfect benediction to end the album, “More than this you’ll never need”. But there’s more, with the lovely Falling to finish.

If the album has a theme, it’s loving acceptance; whether it’s coming to terms with an old partner in Let It All Go, burying deep differences in Coming ‘Round and coming to terms with an empty nest in Growing Growing Gone. In a world full of trouble and division the album oozes humanity

It’s a unique piece of work which will either be hugely successful or doomed to obscurity; it depends upon whether you buy it. The CD and digital versions are available from all the usual retailers and platforms. Even better? Buy it direct from the Merry Hell shop.

I was sent a free copy of No Place Like Tomorrow by Virginia Kettle to review. As you’ve probably noticed, if you’ve read my blog, my opinion can’t be bought.

Hares Mug – Melanie Wickham

We are a nation of creatives. Britain is awash with fresh ideas in art and music and film. Yet there’s a disconnect between what our populations buys and what we create. There’s an over-production of mass-produced tat in the shops which doesn’t really add to the history of human happiness. If you’d like to support individuals making quirky and idiosyncratic things then Etsy is a wonderful place to go.

Melanie Wickham is a linocut artist. I’ve worked with her before and we produced a book which I wrote and published called An Insect Alphabet. It sold out many years ago. I still love it and she was charming to work with.

I was pleased to see she had an Etsy shop and love her work. If you like imaginative interpretations of wildlife in the purest of graphic styles, you’ll love her shop too.

Linocuts are made by carving into a sheet of specially-made linoleum (not the stuff on floors), then rolling ink on the flat surface left, and pressing it into paper. You get an image which is reversed and where the carving creates the white line and space. It’s only one step above the potato printing I did in infant school and very effective because of it.

Here’s what caught my eye: Especially since I’ve been enjoying theBrown Hares I’ve been seeing locally in South Devon.

Melanie Wickham Mug - The Hall of Einar

I bought her Hares mug. I’ve got enough art to fill every wall in the house, so it was great to find something beautiful and useful. There’s a famous William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” The Northern disparaging equivalent is describing someone as “you’re neither use nor ornament”.

Hares Mug - Melanie Wickham

What better than giving yourself a small smile with every sip?

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with more reviews of things you might adore next Sunday.
In the meantime, I wish you a great week. Keep safe, everyone.

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