Mark Chadwick: All the Pieces
In recent years I’ve got a bit disillusioned with the Levellers – it seems that they play the same songs every time I go to see them, and it’s always like a reunion gig for a band that have decided to get back together, instead of an ongoing series of gigs by a band who have been together for years. Recently, though, they seem to have regenerated a bit and started writing new material, both for the band and for solo projects.
I went to see Mark Chadwick play at Studd’s Bar in Rochdale a few months back, and as well as playing acoustic Levellers tracks, he did a few of his new ones. As ever when that happens they aren’t so well received because people do tend to stop dancing when they don’t know something. It may also be because some of the tracks on here don’t sound very much like the Levellers, and playing those surprised people and left them without the familiar to cling on to.
Chadwick is at his best with the “end of season” sad songs on this album, such as 'The Great and the Dead and Inevitable'. Despite the album being autobiographical it does work on other levels as well. 'Empty Now' uses the metaphor of overfished oceans to illustrate a low point in his life, which works well and could equally be a protest song in the long tradition of folk artists. There are some tracks on the album where the upbeat chorus doesn’t quite fit with the melancholy verses such as 'Empty Fayre' and 'Havens'. Given the subject matter I think he is trying to convey the madness of the situation, but they just don’t work that well for me personally.
Produced by Seth Lakeman, who also plays on the album, you can certainly hear his influence particuarly on 'Inevitable'. It features Lakeman and a number of other performers, which also helps to give it a distinct sound. I think it will still appeal to fans of the Levellers – it’s not that far distant enough to turn them off – as well as folk fans generally, as it has far more of a folk sensibility than a punk or rock one.