From the very first bar, this album provides stiff competition for arguably one of the finest of musical collaborations, the Transatlantic Sessions. With their heavenly refrain, all of the contributors to one ‘Hell of a Memory’ elegantly enhance the lyrical intelligence and storytelling of Gregory Page himself, making this a rather superb thirty minutes or so of spectacular entertainment.
Page was born in London to an Irish mother and Armenian father, both of whom were singers. He moved to America at the age of fourteen, where he went on to write poetry and learn to play the guitar. His music has since featured on film and television soundtracks. This album, however, is Page’s ode to new beginnings after “an extremely difficult period in my life, one in which I found myself fighting a very powerful force”.
‘Change in the Weather’, mid-way through the album, is one of only two songs on the album in which Page doesn’t have a guest vocalist. In it, he wears his heart on his sleeve and gives a precis of that difficult time. However, rather than be full of anguish, it is a beautifully soothing, wise, and optimistic narrative of how he has emerged from that turbulent time, declaring “your heart is a compass to guide you”.
But let us go back to the beginning and the outstanding opening song, ‘Right Now, Not Tomorrow’. This song sets the tone for how Page looks back to look forward throughout the whole album with a joyful eagerness to live life to the full because “when you are dead you are dead for a long time”.
‘Green Lights & Blue Skies’ follows this theme, reminding us in the most jubilant way, that “our ticket is for one ride”. Both songs feature Jason Mraz who brings incredibly complimentary vocals to the show.
‘A Place in the Choir’ then changes things up somewhat. It is a fabulously entertaining jig further showcasing the fun, poetic nature of Pages writing and vocals. It features Jason Mraz once again and quite incredibly refers to just about every species of animal you could imagine. And, of course, with such a wonderful array of musicians and their endless talents suffusing glorious colour throughout every one the recordings, each one of them is deserving of a mention; Eric Rigler – Uilleann Pipes & flute, Dennis Caplinger – Banjo & Fiddle, Steve Peavey – Mandolin & Mandocello, Nico Hueso – Violin & Viola, Enrique Platas – Drums & Percussion and Doug Walker – Upright Bass.
‘Ballad of Bridget Healy’ tells the true story of Pages grandmother living through the 1916 Easter Rising. It is a moving portrayal of love and loss set to the hair-raising sound of the consummate Uilleann Pipes. Eric Rigler, who is also known for many movie soundtracks including ‘The Titanic’, brings a timeless beauty to this heart-breaking tale which ultimately transcends brutality, declaring “I forgive, but I cannot forget”. It is utterly graceful. Grace and beauty being a theme throughout this album.
Cindy Wasserman accompanies Page on two of the songs ‘A Crying Shame’ and ‘Nothing Wrong With Me’, and again the lilting complimentary combination takes you to a different place. The penultimate song, ‘I Miss the Mississippi and You’, magnificently captures the style of a bygone day yet with a true contemporary edge and it is a style that greatly suits the combination of Page and Mraz’s vocals.
Page has an infinitely listenable voice; soft yet robust, haunting yet grounded too. The title track ‘One Hell of a Memory’, closes out this fabulous album with a wonderfully uplifting farewell, looking forward to the new beginnings.