How Does Your Land Lie?
Nicky Swann hit a rich seam when she decided to explore some of the stories behind her home town, Newton Abbot in South Devon. Approaching each character, or event, from such an angle as to place the listener at the heart of the matter, this is an intelligent and ambitious album.
'A Piece Of Me', depicting the life of music teacher and oil painter, David Studdard, becomes a wide-eyed romantic view of his Devonshire landscape. Determined dreamer, John Lethbridge, took a cider barrel and invented a diving machine - in Nicky's hands this becomes a lavish show tune with belting vocals. And 'One Track Line' brings fresh perspectives to the tragic tale of Kitty Jay.
A majority of tunes are ballads, but each has its own individual nuances, largely due to Nicky being joined by a set of players capable of enhancing each moment. 'Because Of You', a portrayal of Frank Matchem, designer of more than two hundred theatres, is a sumptuous string-laden odyssey. But the sadness of the wartime bombing of the local railway station sticks with the simplistic velveteen qualities of Nicky's voice and guitar. Departures bring a percussion-backed barrelling piano for the tale of Victorian social reformer Dr. John Willian Ley on 'Union Babies'. And 'Sing', a tribute to Tuckers Maltings and its annual beer festival, finishes this engrossing musical adventure on a knees-up.