Jennifer Crook Trio
Carnforth Station : Release Date September 2014
New CD – Title/Label/(Cat.No):
Carnforth Station / Transatlantic Roots
in assoc. with Long Tale Recordings/(TRJC009)
UK release date: Monday 15 September 2014
UK distribution: Proper Music Distribution
Musically, I think ’Carnforth Station’ presents me in a more authentic way than my previous recordings” says the singer songwriter, composer and noted harpist Jennifer Crook. ”It draws on so much of my musical history and diverse influences (elements of trad Irish, bluegrass and alt country), and yet there is an overall coherence to it, as well as an honesty in both the performances and the songwriting that I feel we have really been able to capture on this record”.
“Utterly beguiling” PROPERGANDA
“A class act” R2
“A great singer, great harp player… beautiful stuff” MIKE HARDING
“A vocalist of sublime power… gently luring the listener into a web of disarming surrender” fROOTS
“I’m really, really loving the new album – it’s beautiful” BOB HARRIS, BBC RADIO 2
“Brilliant” MAVERICK **** (4-stars)
Journeys and travelling go to the thematic heart of Jennifer Crook’s new album. As befits a musician on the road and regularly meeting new audiences, the songs here include ones that are already firm favourites at gigs as well as related new material. ”Without wanting to ‘force’ a concept” Jennifer says ”it did seem to almost write itself, with songs like ’One More Day’ and ’Carnforth Station’ making their way into the live set. When it came to choosing which tracks to record I drew on a couple of unfinished songs like ’Long Drive Back Home From Love’ and a much older song called ’The Net’. Metaphors involving trains, cars, and boats feature pretty heavily and offer themselves perfectly to the theme. It always helps to have a concept to tie the material together” she laughs.
”Lyrically” she continues ”the album explores transitions…. moving on from situations, letting go, holding on, finding the beauty and joy in life and taking the rough with the smooth. And hope. I was not too attached to any one running order, but everyone involved felt the sequence of the tracks was important. It ended up matching some early ideas I had written down (and subsequently forgotten) for an album that began with ’Long Drive’ and ended with ’For You’, and went on quite a journey in the music inbetween….”
The grassroots interaction with Jennifer’s audiences continued with the funding of ’Carnforth Station’. ”The whole process of crowd-funding the album” she says ”came with an extra uncertainty and a responsibility I felt to the people who had supported the project. It also provided me with feedback from the very beginning; it’s a wonderful feeling that so many people wanted the album to be made! Once we had the money required, the whole process took about six weeks. From launching the Pledge Campaign, to reaching our target, to recording and mastering, to the album’s pre-release show… it was pretty quick!
”We recorded seven of the twelve songs together in a live situation, rather than recording a solo album and then inviting guests in to add their contributions. Unlike my last album which included two co-writes with Boo Hewerdine, and a lot of honing of material in the pre-production stage, these are all my own songs – including four brand new songs that hadn’t been performed or worked on prior to the studio sessions.
”I wrote the majority of the songs on the harp (not as a ‘texture’ or an afterthought but as a central element in the arrangement) so, for myself, this album draws together many strands of my own musical journey.
”Working with such experienced producers and engineers as Stephen W Tayler, Stuart Bruce and Leon Hunt was a great experience. The process of recording was a very positive and a creative one and I think you can hear that on the record. Everyone involved was 100% committed to the project and I am very proud of the end result”.
Jennifer Crook – singing, harp, guitar and banjo
A one-time BBC Radio 2 Young Tradition Award finalist, Jennifer has collaborated with numerous artistes including Susana Baca, Susheela Raman, Snow Patrol, Eliza Carthy, Boo Hewerdine, and Eddi Reader, amongst others, and recorded three solo albums, of which this is the latest. A full biographical chronology is attached.
Beth Porter – cello, fiddle, harmony singing.
Constantly in-demand, cellist Beth is a member of the Eliza Carthy Band, Bookshop Band, recently toured with Newton Faulkner and has recorded and performed for numerous artists. Her own album is due out later this year.
Mike Cosgrave – guitar, accordion, harmony singing
Multi-instrumentalist Mike tours with Jackie Oates, recently recorded for Reg Meuross, and performs in a duo with piper Nick Scott. He was a member of Leon Hunt’s Daily Planet and toured and worked for many years with Jackie Leven, culminating in the duo album ‘Wayside Shrines and the Code of the Travelling Man’.
Miranda Sykes – double bass, harmony singing
Well known for the last eight years as a central component of Show of Hands, Miranda also tours as a duo with virtuoso mandolin player Rex Preston.
Kevin Brown – slide guitar, lap steel, electric guitar,
One of the country’s premier slide and lap steel players, highly acclaimed by Mark Knopfler.
Long Drive Back Home From Love
Thanks to Charlie Dore for asking the question that led to the title of this song. I had the pleasure of meeting her in 2012 when I was asked to be a facilitator at the London Song Company Summer School. During one of her inspirational workshops she asked us to come up with a song title with 6 words… and this one popped out. Suffice to say the content of the song had a much longer gestation period!
Romantic love is more often portrayed as the coming ‘home’ whereas this song is about finding your way back to yourself and a feeling of belonging after leaving your romantic love behind. It’s a hopeful song about moving on. The driving metaphor fitted the theme of the album perfectly.
I wrote the song with an arrangement in mind for the trio that would reflect a sense of movement – using the central harp pattern to drive it along, and build up with guitar parts and a chugging cello. This was a very exciting track to work on as I had never played it before (though I do remember trying to play it rather awkwardly to Charlie down my mobile phone one evening!) and only completed just before the session. Much of it was created in the studio – with Stephen bringing the instruments in to build up the track, and the addition of the wonderful Miranda Sykes on double bass and harmony vocals.
A song about missed opportunities… and trains. I saw some photographs of the abandoned carriages at Carnforth Station – the location where Noël Cowards’ ‘Brief Encounter’ was filmed. I finally saw the film when I was invited to sing the song at a ‘Brief Encounter’ evening. Also, I found myself watching a lot of TV programmes about trains… and wishing we had not lost so many of the small stations around the country. (Incidentally, the photo shoot for the album was at Westbury Station where I discovered the steam train driver was the singer Kathryn Roberts’ uncle, and when I posted a photo on Facebook a friend said he last saw that very train at Carnforth Station).
I wrote the song on the harp, and at gigs I am accompanied by Mike’s lonesome accordion. However we recorded the trio all together for the album version and combined with Stephen’s production skills it really brings out the nostalgic atmosphere of the song.I’ve
Over the years I have been exposed to a wealth of bluegrass music, joining in picking sessions in pubs and fields on the harp – not exactly known as a traditional bluegrass instrument!
Mike was also in Leon Hunt’s excellent ‘Daily Planet’ for a time so when I presented this song in rehearsal we thought it would be fun to come up with an arrangement on instruments like the harp and cello – which we recorded at the same time. Miranda was the ideal choice for double bass, and I think the track retains the live energy we wanted… it always made us dance around in the studio anyway!
This song has been a favourite at gigs for a few years now. The story goes that I ‘accidentally’ bought a banjo at a bluegrass festival and on returning home I wanted to learn a song to play on it. However, I was feeling a bit lazy that day so I just worked out a few chords and wrote Black Fly instead. A song about perseverance and having faith that everything will work out in the end.
There have been a number of different versions of this song but I love this one featuring the trio. When Beth arrived, I asked her to play the fiddle (rather than the cello) which I felt added a fragility to the sound, and then we invited Kevin Brown to contribute some of his inspired lap steel playing which gives a bluesy edge to the track.
This song began life about fifteen years ago but had never been finished, or performed, and rather took us all by surprise – including myself! Brought to life by the wonderful atmospheres created by Beth, Mike, and our producer Stephen, it became apparent after the session that nothing else was needed. Written after a particularly wild festival, the story speaks of travel and music and love and incorporates two traditional Irish reels: ‘The Humours of Westport’ (also known as the ‘Clyde Side Lassies’) and ‘The Humours of Scarriff’.
One More Day
Written prior to my Scotland tour in 2013 from the point of view of the travelling musician and the connections that are made before moving on to the next town.The song took on an extra poignancy some nights during that particular tour which had many magical moments and some lovely audiences.
A simple song that has gone down very well at gigs, Beth and I sang this song together live in the studio, with some gorgeous slide guitar from Kevin Brown playing on his Lazy River Weissenborn.
Angel in Disguise
Written almost as a stream of consciousness, this is a song about the people that enter your life and leave their mark. Beth and Mike add some beautiful chordal accompaniment to one of only two songs on the album where I play my old Gibson guitar.
Childhood memories of my Granny, this was written for her funeral in late 2008. The tune is loosely based on the traditional Somerset song ‘Searching For Lambs’ and followed by the traditional Irish slip jig ‘The Exiles Jig’. Performed live, this was the first (and only) take of the song.
Only the River
As far as I’m concerned wild swimming is the best kind of swimming. But although I lived for many years with a river at the bottom of my garden I didn’t venture in until two old women swam by during a heatwave… Performed only once at a house concert last year on guitar (just after the song was written) this is one of my newest songs, featuring the harp and cello and currently one of my favourites on the record.
Written on guitar this is a bit of a departure for me musically – with Miranda Sykes on bass and Kevin Brown on electric guitar, I wanted to keep the ‘bedroom songwriter’ type of intimacy in this song as well as make a foray into some power chords in the middle eight! Lyrically, this song seemed to work well as a footnote that would bring the longer narrative of the record to a conclusion.
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The Jennifer Crook Trio
Spiegeltent, Bath Fringe Festival, May 2014
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