Andy Griffiths “Big Red Monster” (Musician Records 2017)

Here is a thoughtful album that deserves your attention. Andy tells stories in his songs that are “beyond anywhere,” which are words from the first track. Rather, they present a carefully collected and memorable array of events and places. The cover and pictures on the album, and its title give some clues here. There is Andy playing his guitar, sitting above Worbarrow Bay on the Dorset coast, and on the back is the big red tractor, the monster itself. Track 7 tells of the families, who, on a mere moment’s notice were forced to leave their village of Tyneham which was then required as part of the Lulworth Range as gun and fighting practice for the Normandy landings. They were forced to leave, and then were never allowed to return. Andy tells the story more effectively and simply by singing of the people who lived there: grandpa who ran a tavern, Nana who held the purse, uncle who led the church and my brother who was a fisherman in the bay. In the song, notice also Natasha Pattinson’s viola.

The depth and variety of the collection can be heard by listening to The Liquorice Field. A song of lost love, reminiscence, memories, yes, but also, perhaps a reference to John Betjeman and the fields in Pontefract where they used to grow liquorice, with its “fragile flowers” and what a catchy memorable refrain! “You and me in the liquorice field? Hiding from the world.”

Lighthouse Keeper is a song of reflection by a keeper who has held his job for 30 years like his father before him. Now he has to face the threat of automation. “There’ll be no place for me,” he sings. “All I want is for them to stay away,” because he can’t cope with “All the rushing, pushing and greed” in life outside the lighthouse. Another moving song. And the same applies to Any Day Now where the story is of a prisoner yearning for an imminent release from jail. Unfortunately, he can’t remember details of getting arrested, the evidence against him, whether he was “caught by betrayal or confession.” All he wants is to escape from “this rusty cage.” In this sad confusion, all he wonders is, if once he is released, “Can I still dream?”

Another track that deserves a mention is The Lee Shore. This appears to be a simple love song but, in fact, it says so much more. Andy and his words win by their understatement baring witness to the depth of feeling and understanding throughout this outstanding album: “Hawl with me, my love, down by the lee shore/ We yearn for less while drowned in more.” Exactly.

Author: Dave Clarke

I have always loved Americana music, even before it had a name. I’ve been a teacher (secondary and tertiary) all my professional life.

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