No Redemption Songs, the new album from Ribbon Road is, using their own words, “potently topical”. On the back of a general election which appears to have caused more unrest amongst the working people than any other for a long time, Ribbon Road’s look back at the Miner’s Strike of 1984/85 on its 30th anniversary is extremely poignant. Putting BrightYoungFolk in the same league as the BBC (as it should be) we’ll leave any political bias at the door and just look at the music.
Letting Love is Hard very much sets the tone for the rest of the album. It highlights one of the main strengths of Ribbon Road, which is the incredibly tight harmony singing. The voices of Brenda, Jill and Geoff Heslop blend effortlessly to produce a strong sound.
The first four tracks of the album are fairly spacious in terms on accompaniment. An occasionally strummed guitar serves to highlight the rhythm of the singing rather than add a huge amount of texture, but it is effective.
Coal in the Sea introduces Jill’s piano, which is a very welcome change of sound. Again, the piano is played to emphasise the rhythm of the song, but this works really well as contrast to the guitar which is a lot freer with the occasional break.
What Are We Gonna Do, a reaction to the continuous cuts and loss of rights, is a standout track. Its haunting melody and subtle accompaniment convey the sense of desperation that the miners were singing of, and the tasteful electric guitar adds a texture which isn’t present elsewhere on the album, which is a lovely variant.
There is some light relief on the album with the songs Dad and Me and A Tenner and a Turkey, which are a pleasant addition considering the album’s topic is one of such emotion and turmoil.
The album features guest appearances from Stu Luckley on the bass, and spoken word by Di Anderson and Jez Lowe. The spoken word on the album is a fantastic concept, and it really hammers home the stories of the people who these songs are about- the miners and working people of the North.
No Redemption Songs is a fantastically produced album, built on an extremely strong concept. As previously stated, these songs seem as relevant now as they were 30 years ago, but hopefully they won’t be relevant in another 30 years- just reminders.Ciaran Algar
Released 23rd August 2014.
1. Letting Love is Hard
2. Poor Jossie
3. Fly the Banner High
4. Running Wide
5. Coal in the Sea
6. Dad and Me
7. What Are We Gonna Do
8. A Tenner and a Turkey
9. Last Paying Day
10. Don’t Give Up on Me / Be Good to Each Other