Boathouse Keepers “Emperor of Oranges” (Backwater Records 2017)

If the lyrics to most popular music can usually be reduced to the essentials of “Baby I love you,” or “why did you leave me?” then you have to applaud the efforts of any musical act which chooses to put its songwriting focus on literature and history instead. Such is the case with Suffolk folk duo, Holly Johnston and Jonathan Coy, A.K.A. Boathouse Keepers, on this, their debut album, ‘Emperor of Oranges.’

’Elementary,’ the album opener is clever just like its subject matter on Sherlock Holmes pursuing his foes through the streets of London – “the game’s afoot” – while ‘Perfectly Strange’ is based on another Victorian novel, this time ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.’ And the songs aren’t all related to literary endeavours either – allied to smart lyrical wordplay – although there’s plenty of that on show.

‘All for Mexico,’ for instance, is about Jose Morelos, the Mexican Roman Catholic priest and revolutionary rebel leader who led the Mexican War of Independence movement, while ‘Dear Diary’ is a meditation on the sort of letter you might write to your younger self given half a chance.

In terms of their sound, Holly Johnstone has a pure, pristine sounding vocal, while she’s ably assisted throughout by Jonathan Coy on acoustic guitar. That’s the full extent of any instrumentation on the ten songs – and you also feel that Holly could benefit from singing in a lower register at times in order to sustain the listener’s interest – but a decent effort nonetheless.

6/10

Summary

Suffolk folk duo release debut CD of self-penned songs from literature, history, and everyday life.

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