At a time when the Royal British Legion has come under fire for sanitising Eric Bogle’s song, The Green Fields of France, by removing its anti-war sentiment, Songs For The Voiceless is very much a warts-an-all commemoration of those whose lives were lost or changed forever during the First World War. From tragedy to cynicism, from selflessness to hopelessness, this powerful album captures a range of emotions told through the lives of ordinary people
Featuring some of the brightest names on the contemporary folk scene, the ten songs on this album provide a poignant and fitting commemoration. Jon Boden, Bella Hardy, Josienne Clarke, Gilmore & Roberts, The Young ’Uns, Michael J Tinker, Ian Stephenson and Tom Oakes all contribute. The well-researched booklet also provides some fascinating and moving backstories to each of the songs.
The album opens with Theo Jones performed by the Young ’Uns. Theo is a headmaster who is given the parting gift of a prayer-book from his pupils when he enlists. Inevitably, as the beautifully-sung tale unfolds, the day comes when the book is returned to the school ”stained with the blood of Theo Jones.”
The trio also contribute a later track The King’s Horse/Dawson’s Prisoners/The Calculation. With the North-Eastern singers attempting cockney accents and the type of mock-chirpy satirical banter found in “Oh What a Lovely War!” this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and is markedly different from the rest of the album.
Bella Hardy’s Jolly Good Luck To The Girl That Loves a Soldier is a song describing what many, many young women had to go through in war, as well as the initial pressure that women faced in encouraging their men to sign up, regardless of whether they are “those that say go or those that say no”.
Tom Oakes contributes the one instrumental track, Harry and Nellie’s First Dance, a tribute to his great grandparents that is played on the flute and the harmonium, taking the traditional waltzes of the period and putting them in a modern folk setting.
Billy Green by Jamie Roberts of Gilmore & Roberts is one of the album’s most moving highlights. It tells of a soldier the night before he was due to be ordered “over the top”. But he prays not for his own life but for Billy Green, his comrade who, in spite of sharing the same fears as all the other men, was never without a smile or the ability to lift his comrades’ spirits.
Ian Stephenson’s Trenches recounts the tale of a young man who goes from enthusiastic new recruit to post-1918 civilian life with a profound hatred of war and all that it implies after two years on the front.
Haunting songs with beautiful melodies, Songs For The Voiceless is a moving, touching tribute to those ordinary folk who lived and died throughout that terrible period. It serves their memories proud.Darren Johnson
Released on Haystack Records on 14th October 2014
1. Theo Jones
2. Trojan Tree
3. As The Dust Settles In
4. Charles Ball
5. Jolly Good Luck To The Girl That Loves a Soldier
6. Harry and Nellie’s First Dance
7. Billy Green
9. The King’s Horse/Dawson’s Prisoners/The Calculation
10. (Bonus) If You Want To See The General