Review Archive

‘Songs for the Voiceless’ – Various Artists “…emotional and profoundly stirring”

(September 28, 2014)

A few weeks before this album arrived I read an article commenting on plans for First World War remembrances, among its observations it stated: “Laudable though it is to commemorate momentous Songs for the Voicelssevents, most such reminisces are usually jingoistic and verge on the maudlin.” Aside from an overwhelming sense of sadness at those words, I really wanted to correct the writer. Hopefully, that wish may be somewhat fulfilled through this album. ‘Songs for the Voiceless’, by a selection of gifted folk musicians brings life to and focuses sharp reality on some lesser-known stories of the First World War. Along the way it tells how that bloody war savaged the lives of soldiers, civilians, families and friends, then and for generations to follow.

The concept ‘Songs for the Voiceless’ was born in the mind of singer songwriter and teller of tales, Michael J Tinker. He imagined mustering folk musicians from around the country to write and record an album to tell some of these stories for the centenary commemorations of the First World War. The contributors he gathered include Jon Boden, Bella Hardy, Josienne Clarke, Gilmore & Roberts, The Young’uns, Tom Oakes and Ian Stephenson. The result is an emotional and profoundly stirring album that tells simple yet deeply affecting tales about people no longer able to make their voices heard.

Every song is something exceptional and carries its own unique and poignant message, from the solemn yet beautifully delivered, ‘Theo Jones’, by The Young’uns, to Katriona Gilmore’s little known story of  the ‘Trojan Tree’ and inner darkness forged by terrible memories ‘As The Dust Settles In’ from Josienne Clarke. To hear the depths of expression, listen to ‘Charles Ball’ by Michael Tinker, a touching imagining of exchanges between a soldier and his wife, or the deeply affecting tune ‘Harry and Nellie’s First Dance’ by Tom Oakes and Ian Stephenson relating the devastating realisation of an old veteran’s recollections in ‘Trenches’ – a truly shattering tale.

‘Songs for the Voiceless’ is a powerful statement, as it should be. The artists involved have created something important, that's at the same time, both comforting and shocking. There’s gentle acceptance of fate contrasted with a sober resentment against the waste. Profound sadness, shared suffering, harrowing recollections and ultimate sacrifice. Above all, there’s fervent gratitude for those who gave and the assurance that those who remain shall not forget.

Michael J Tinker’s ‘good idea’ has achieved its goal. And for those of us, and there are many, with direct and never-forgotten family connections to the First World War, the album and its messages offer a solid testimony and fitting memorial.

You can find details of the album and tour here, and you should:

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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