Described on the CD liner as “a love letter to my family and Ireland”, Chewing the Fat is a musical collage of songs and tunes reflecting on James Patrick Gavins’s life in London, and his roots in Northern Ireland. Supporting the tracks are field recordings of his grandmother, “Mena”, and two of the London traffic, all woven together to produce a very personal album.
Steeped in Irish tradition, the album begins with a tune set dedicated to Mena’s teapot, which is a beautiful, atmospheric opening to the album. Underlaid with birdsong, this moves seamlessly into the traditional song The Lark in the Clear Air, supported by gentle guitar accompaniment and a haunting fiddle solo.
Tae is the longest track on the album, and was written in praise of tea, much loved by James Patrick Gavin’s late grandfather, of which 1500 cups were drunk at his funeral. The fiddle plays a graceful, dignified melody while the words of the song muse on life, as well as the importance of tea.
In the middle of the album are two tracks inspired by life in London. Lady O’ Dreams recalls the many characters who used to grace a pub in the Angel, London. Here the recording of traffic noise enhances the atmosphere of the pub.
London Town, written by James Patrick Gavin and his father Seamus, is a blues song written in London, but an homage to home. The song recalls the plight of so many from the island of Ireland who came to London for work. The mournful harmonica interlude is very striking.
Also very fitting for an album with Irish connections is the poem Longing by Stephen Muldoon, on migration and endurance. The poem is spoken, over a tune written by James Patrick Gavin and snippets of conversation with Mena and other field recordings in the background,
Ewan MacColl’s classic song, The Joy of Living, brings together the themes of the songs and tunes on the album, and again features a recording of Mena, making it a very moving rendition.
James Patrick Gavin has compiled a fine collection of songs and tunes which celebrate the various influences on his life and music.Shelley Rainey
Released on 26 January 2018 by Sleight of Hand Records
1. Mena’s Teapot
2. Lark in the Clear Air
3. The Old Keady Dog
6. Lady O’Dreams
7. London Town
8. Standing Stone
9. The Joy of Living
10. First Born