|UNICORN Magazine (Alan Creamer)
Twelve tracks and just under 50 minutes on this 4th CD from George, aided by Anahata, Mary Humphreys, Graeme Knights and Johnny Collins.
When the sleeve notes start "Everyday life concerns me. Seriously. We don't pay enough attention to it ..... as we rush towards our dreams" you know that the man behind the guitar isn't knocking out shallow songs to make a quick buck. He's thinking, and writing, and hoping to change the way we think about ourselves and the world. And I think he succeeds. Andy Irvine and Vin Garbutt are just two artistes singing George's songs, and I suspect he will soon become a major force in the songwriting world.
Unusually, George sings lead vocal on only 10 tracks, giving one to Johnny Collins (Those who also serve) which he describes as an "anthem for the common man..." and which continues the theme from the sleeve notes, and one to Mary Humphreys (The rain is falling). This track is apparently the third in a trilogy, and tells of life as an Australian farmer's wife. There are a few tracks which grab the listener - "Sangatte" where George tries to get into the mind of refugees from the French camp, attempting to walk to "freedom" through the channel tunnel to the UK, and "If I had another chance" - should we say "What if...?" about our lives? Would the good times disappear with the bad?
The tunes aren't instantly memorable, one doesn't walk away whistling the last track, and the choruses are very laid-back. And yet ... the man writes poetry, and then riskily tries to sing it - and surprisingly often makes it work.
The accompaniment is good, and not intrusive - Anahata's cello, concertina or melodeon, and George's clean guitar and bass sound good together, and Johnny's excellent bass harmonies complete the sound. The website - www.folk4all.net - gives lots of info, including the complete lyrics to all four CDs, and you can buy the album on-line at www.nightcafe.co.uk.
Alan Creamer, Unicorn Magazine, April 2004
TAPLAS (Dave Haslam)
NETRHYTHMS (Dave Kidman)
Well, by now you’ll have read what I wrote (last issue) about George and his enviably prolific songwriting, and ever since the appearance of his third CD of self-penned songs (Silent Majority) around the middle of last year, people have been sitting up and taking notice. Two of George’s songs have recently been covered, to considerable acclaim, by Vin Garbutt and Andy Irvine respectively, while at one particular festival I attended no less than three of his songs were performed by floor singers; a different three songs have now entered my own repertoire, with more to follow.
And now George himself is releasing, later this month, his fourth CD of self-penned material, which I’m privileged to have been sent for review. It’s a winner – and it should be the one to break him into the national consciousness. Twelve new songs, between them running the gamut of emotion and experience that makes up “life as usual”, through which can be observed the common thread, ie. George’s view (so eloquently expounded in his insert note) being that “we are oblivious to the contribution of the ordinary person to the world and we gloss over horrors that happen on our doorstep, simply because ‘they are not our concern.’” George shares with his mentor Robb Johnson the view that they should be, hence his mission in songwriting.
All the trademarks of George’s style that I noted when reviewing Silent Majority are present on Life As Usual – the real thing in terms of songwriting, with bags of integrity and compassion, stylish lyrics set to strong melodic hooks with unbelievably catchy choruses (A-level maybe, and equal in both wordiness and worthiness, but such fun to learn!). George’s easy familiarity with the folk scene has enabled him to absorb and assimilate his influences and inspirations, with the result that he’s able to select exactly the right kind of idiom for each song. Life As Usual kicks off in rousing fashion with Give Me The Good News, a jolly little self-explanatory rail against the apparent non-acceptability of such, followed by an exhortation (Those Who Also Serve) to value those ordinary people who perform the “little gems of heroism that take place all around us”. The title track is a balanced look at teenage rebellion, while Thieves Of Innocence chillingly confronts us with the issue of forcibly using children in armed conflict. Contrast then comes in the form of a wry, jaunty drinking song bemoaning the loss of the simple ale-and-chaser, followed by the album’s twin emotional centrepeaks, both sincere, heartfelt and glowing tributes. I Wish I Could Have Met You commemorates the music of Stan Rogers, while By And By is an astonishingly gentle, simple paean to a lasting relationship which in its own deeply moving way inhabits the same emotional landscape as Ewan MacColl’s Joy Of Living (and that’s meant as the highest of compliments). Then there’s two songs which complete different “trilogies” begun on earlier albums – The Rain Is Falling being the Australian set’s sequel to Emptyhanded, and Living On The Stilts dealing with life on the oil platforms (following Sailing Tomorrow). Stilts is an archetypal example of George’s complete mastery of the folk-style modern-day industrial song, by the way. Sangatte is a bleak examination of the plight of the refugees attempting to flee to England through the Channel Tunnel, while If I Had Another Chance is one of George’s eminently sensible philosophical balance-sheets.
Finally, what better way to close than with a parting song (clearly inspired by Dave Webber’s end-of-club-night classic)? Having now whetted your appetite for the uniformly high quality of the songs here, I can’t close the review without mentioning that George has some influential friends of high standing in folk circles, some of whom gladly help him out on this CD. Vocally, Johnny Collins imbues the lead part of Those Who Also Serve with his trademark stentorian authority, Graeme Knights can be heard (with Johnny) boosting the complement on four of the tracks, and Mary Humphreys brings just the right degree of earthily infectious energy to The RaIn Is Falling; instrumentally, Anahata’s cello, concertina or melodeon grace three tracks to provide a colourful counterpoint to George’s own guitars. In the latter respect, George has toned down the “busy-ness” of his guitar parts compared to some of his earlier recordings, enabling the listener to focus better on the lyrics. Life As Usual is a truly worthy successor to George’s first three CDs; a perfect calling-card for his talents, sure, but an exceptional achievement in its own right. If there’s any justice, it should ensure George a place within the modern folk songwriting tradition alongside the likes of Graeme Miles, Keith Marsden, Jez Lowe, Richard Grainger, and yes, the aforementioned Robb Johnson and Stan Rogers. And it paves the way for the fifth CD– which George plans to start recording this summer…!
David Kidman, Netrhythms, March 2004
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