Label: Self Released
The dictionary definition of the word superlative is ‘expressing the highest degree of a quality’. Personally, I am going to have to reign back a little from borrowing a dictionary full of such superlatives because this album evokes such a spectrum of folk music memories that it would be otherwise impossible to give an unbiased review. Listening to this album is like sinking into a warm acoustic bath with eyes closed, and the music and lyrics washing over the listener, with those lyrics meriting careful listening.
This is classic modern folk music at its very best, strong themes, insightful and topical writing with superb storytelling, instrumental excellence and one song had this reviewer in tears. The first minute of the opening song ‘A303’ had memories of hearing the legendary Nic Jones and a hundred BBC Radio ‘Folk on 2’ programmes of yesteryear flooding back. I just had to stop what I was doing and simply listen.
Folk music can take on a remarkable amount of subjects that the likes of Britney Spears & Co. would never dream of, and indeed Ms Spears gets herself a mention in one of Greg’s songs. The title track’s theme is archaeology, the A303 being the road that passes the Neolithic site of Stonehenge. The opening lyric of ‘Elbow deep in mud with a trowel in my fist, wondering how I ever got involved with this, finding my first roman coin at the bottom of a pit, getting into trouble for going home with it’ sets the theme of a beautifully told story. Another lyric from the song ‘Fascination mixed with irony’ is a perfect description of this powerfully emotive song. Eat your heart out Britney.
‘Butter Side Down’ takes the listener on an amusing and observational view of human theology, astronomy and quantum physics. Not many songs mention the physicist Schrödinger’s famous cat, and if Britney was writing one Greg has beaten her to it and his song is simply brilliant. ‘The Other Side’ is a wistful song with a superb slide resonator guitar accompaniment, and all the instrumentation on the entire album is quite superb.
‘An Arbitrary Line Out Or In’ is a masterclass in modern folk song writing with some great fiddle playing. The listener is taken back to schooldays, ‘I was pretty good at school, but I was nobody’s fool, all my friends were that much thicker, because you need people who can fight, and stand by your side, when you’re sensitive and your dad’s a vicar…’ I won’t give away what then happens at a traditional folk club, or why dear Britney gets a mention, or how Greg seamlessly brings the refugee crisis into focus, so please buy the album!
In the sixth song ‘12’ Greg deals with the relationship of a father and his son. To the accompaniment of some very beautiful finger style guitar with some fine solo trumpet, Greg weaves a profoundly emotive story that had me in tears. Any sons who listen to this rather special song may easily relate to it. And then, suddenly ‘Aleppo’, a fabulous guitar instrumental bursts onto the scene, and by now emotions and goose bumps alike are ready for some English tea and biscuit therapy in preparation for what comes next.
The high standard of lyrical song writing and musicianship continues, and by the time ‘The Longest Day’ fades out to the dying notes of Greg’s guitar, I had completely fallen in love and would recommend this album to anyone regardless of whatever their musical persuasion might be. The album concludes with ‘All These Miles’, a single delightful minute of pure acapella singing from Greg.
A303 is the finest folk album I have had the pleasure of listening to in years, and it was impossible to write a review impartially because the impact of it, causing smiles, tears and happy memories to come flooding back. I often listen to new music while working, but I simply just had to stop work and sit back and truly listen to the lyrics on this album. For me, it is an inspiring and very special masterpiece in its genre, and Greg’s album contains music that reaches out to a far wider audience.
(Note: No superlatives were harmed in the making of this review.)