CD review by Tony Smith
This album has a broader focus than fans might expect of one of the ‘Pitmen Poets’ of the industrial north east of England.
Of the twelve tracks, Lowe has writing credits for 11 and jointly with Bev Sanders on ‘Skin Too Thin’.
The Bad Pennies on this album were, Judy Dinning, Simon Haworth and Kate Bramley.
They were joined by Sam Pirt, Andy May and Jeff Armstrong.
Between them they play a large range of instruments including, guitar, cittern, bodhran, accordion, harmonica, violin, keyboards, percussion, piano, viola, low whistle, drums and bass.
The Bad Pennies all contribute vocals.
Although the stories might not be Durham based, fans will be glad that Lowe’s voice remains exactly as it always is.
Lowe recently exploited his knowledge of the accent in a song about people asking that he talk dirty to them in Geordie!
The sleeve notes supply the lyrics on Honesty Box.
The expression in ‘Skin Too Thin’:
“Wrap your locks around your honesty box”
“Do you really think that they’ll stop me?”
The song criticises the situation where people who toil can live in poverty while the idle rich get richer.
This gets under Lowe’s skin.
“For that beggarman’s tin, for their political spin, let the singing begin, I’ve got a skin too thin”.
‘Ballad of Tasker Jack’ tells of a mighty worker “some believe the pick and shovel were his mam and his dad.
Work gave his life discipline and meaning but the pit closed and he’s worked all he can, now he’s done”.
Kate Bramley’s fiddle is uplifting here as it is on ‘Latchkey Lover’ and her singing duet with Lowe on ‘Fancy Goods’ is admirable.
‘Maddison’ tells of a woman who entered competitions in her husband’s name and finally won a car.
‘Matchboxes’ is also about cars of a kind.
In ‘Mother’s Day’ three men whose lives are destroyed write home about their girls.
There are letters about Alice from Jack in the mud and blood of war, about Yoko from John and about Magdalene from a Jewish Carpenter.
In ‘The Big Fear’ we hear The Lone Badger lamenting the passing of his friends as road kill.
“Now the copse is asking questions and forest’s all a buzz, they’re asking when the likes of them will respect the likes of us”.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this album is how readily Lowe springs surprises in his lyrics.
‘I Saw Hands’ or not in the Hollywood concrete.
‘In My Trade’ seems to be about a parson giving up the soul saving.
‘Armstrong’s Army’ is an a cappella celebration of all people of that name.
‘Long Iron’ is a tale about a blacksmith that turns into a warning about memories, “Don’t try to hold that moment in your hand”.
The sleeve notes carry photos of a happy quartet.
These skilful musicians, well led by Lowe, will bring a smile to the face of the most discerning listener.