Another month has passed and Uncharted Territory is beckoning once more. Last month, we embarked on a whistle stop tour taking in London, the Midlands and Teesside. April sees me looking a little closer to home as we venture West to Liverpool, home of former 'Best Busker In Merseyside' Alun Parry and his fourth studio album Freedom Rider, released on the 25th March. Festival organiser, podcaster, Life President of AFC Liverpool and, above all, musician, Parry has developed a reputation for forthright music and sharp social commentary. Freedom Rider is a fantastic example of his talents.
Parry has created an album of tracks that feel picked from rich soil on both sides of the Atlantic. Opening track Dig Boys Dig reaches deep into a country sound to sing an ode to the coal miners. The chorus echoes hauntingly with voices from the darkness – brothers in the beyond now no more than memories. Song For John Hartwell stirs up reminiscences of Dylan's The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll in a song that takes a cynical view of the world of therapy. Parry, himself having trained to be a psychotherapist, condemns the tenet of 'it's for your own good' and the shield of expertise that is so often used to justify wild experimentation and exploitation. It is a truly compelling track.
Take Your Children To The Hill is a track with a twist that begins as a comfortable waltz through the trappings of a cosy life and ends as an indictment of the bubble of apathy constructed around the Western world as we watch civilisations turn to dust. It is striking and sickening in equal measure. The album closes out on the anthemic We Are Not Afraid, a beautifully-plucked track that feels fresh yet evokes the same presence as African American spiritual standard I Shall Not Be Moved. Parry has dedicated this closing song to Lancashire resident Sophie Lancaster (http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com/), who was tragically murdered in 2007. It stands not only as a touching tribute to a young life cut short but also as a poignant reminder that prejudice and intolerance are two blights that threaten the very survival of our society lest ordinary people take a stand.
Alun Parry is an amalgamation of things that hold a special place in my heart – the vocal tone and intonation of The Beatles; the one man and his guitar rebel spirit of Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie; and the social conscience and intelligence of the peerless Christy Moore. The threads of Americana that bind together his songs work well without ever feeling tacky or perfunctory. From the lazy violin drawl and frenetic banjo of the South to the punchy electric guitar of the North, Parry's grasp on his musical influences is as strong as it is varied.
It is the content of Parry's songs though that elevates his work in my eyes. As we hurtle ever closer to a general election where we will hear pointless poseur politicians pontificating about the perceived problems of the people, it is refreshing to hear that the voice of the common man has not been stifled just yet. So as you prepare for six weeks of taxation talk, pension promises and Brexit bumbling, spare a thought for some of the issues that aren't quite as headline grabbing. Are we providing an adequate level of social care for vulnerable individuals? Is the aid that we provide to war-torn countries humanitarian or mere profiteering? Are we preparing our young people adequately to grow up and function in a multicultural society? Hopefully, with more voices like Alun Parry's, we might be able to bring these questions to the fore and unearth some real answers.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Month
“But cages are there to be rattled//If dead men fall out when we do”
Song For John Hartwell
Guitar and voice his weapons
Stands tall for justice
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