It is somewhat inevitable that the music world will be swamped with work commemorating the centenary of the First World War at the moment, but Jim Boyes has a particularly reason for doing so. As a member of Coope, Boyes and Simpson, he has been involved in performing material which deals with that time for many years, but this new venture is much more personal.
The songs on Sensations of a Wound are inspired by the war experiences of Jim’s grandfather, Robert Boyes, who never talked about that period in his life. Research has led to a fascinating selection of songs charting his physical and emotional journey. The musical styles of the songs are very varied, with inspiration from traditional tunes and themes as well as the music hall.
Jim is joined on this album by Belinda O’Hooley, whose piano accompaniment suits the music hall style well, and is particularly appropriate for the era the songs are depicting. In the gentler numbers, her sensitive playing enhances the vocal line without ever overwhelming it.
Along the Menin Road is set to a traditional tune and has one of those timeless folksong themes - a young man going away to war and his beloved trying to think of ways she can join him. Robert’s wife was expecting their first child when he went away to war.
Train song is in music hall style with the tongue firmly in cheek. The jolly tune is in sharp contrast to subject matter. The soldiers are travelling by train to their next posting and are shocked to discover they are being transported in cattle trucks.
One particularly beautiful song is Naked and You Clothed Me, based on a Bible passage. The solemn arrangement uses an old hymn tune which was a favourite of Robert’s father. Another hymn tune appears in the shape of In the Bleak Midwinter, a stark arrangement of the well-known carol depicting the harsh times spent in Italy. Down Upon the Dugout Floor is also chilling with its minimal accompaniment.
As well as Jim’s own compositions, the album includes Angel of Sleep, a setting of a poem written by Robert Boyes himself. La Ballata Dell’Eroe has a flavour of continental café culture with Belinda’s accordion accompaniment. The album ends with Testament, a poignant song in Dutch.
An added bonus to the fine music is that the album sleeve itself is well presented with clear and informative notes for each song, adding a wealth of information. The accompanying live tour promises to be a powerful and moving experience.Shelley Rainey
Released by No Masters, 2nd February 2015
1. Down Upon the Dugout Floor
2. Where You Belong - Scarborough
3. Along the Menin Road
4. Beside the Seaside
5. Will I See Your Face Again - Scarborough
6. The Train Song
7. La Ballata Dell’Eroe
8. Bleak Midwinter - Italy
9. Down Upon the Dugout Floor - Reprise
10. Angel of Sleep
11. Naked and You Clothed Me
12. Where You Belong - Switzerland/Christmas
13. What is it that You Would Not Say?