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Dear Reader - Rivonia

  by Fiona Hutchings

published: 9 / 4 / 2013

Dear Reader - Rivonia
Label: City Slang
Format: CD


Heartfelt third album from Dear Reader, the project of South African singer-songwriter Cheri MacNeil, in which she reflects upon her home country

Dear Reader is now a band of one. Singer and songwriter Cheri MacNeil is in charge following the departure of fellow founding member Darryl Torr. MacNeil is South African and in this third Dear Reader album takes an unblinking look at the place she calls home and the turmoil that characterises its modern history. The music is beautiful, with many tracks featuring delicate melodies and almost an angelic choir vibe. This juxtaposed with lyrics that are often dark and painful makes this both a compelling and unsettling album. It is tempting to compare MacNeil to Tori Amos both vocally and the way tinkling piano is woven around songs that pose more questions than they answer. 'Took Them Away' tells the story of the capture and arrest of nineteen members of the African National Congress. The ANC was the underground organisation run by Nelson Mandela. MacNeil later found out this pivotal moment in her country's history happened just around the corner from her school. The drums, chants, brass and strings add menace to lyrics which retain an almost childish sense of wonder that such a thing happened. The same tools are used in 'Back from the Dead'. 'Man of the Book' positions the idea of a "man of God" next to a society where men of colour find no room at the inn. 'Teller of Truths' details men and cattle shot down in fields. "Can you hear your people weeping now?" asks MacNeil 'Victory' is short but not sweet - "You raise your arms and I'll raise mine/My God will give me the victory and if he doesn't well I'll be in heaven with him." The sense of all powerful belief and a lack of regard for mortal life all compressed in to one minute 24 seconds leaves me breathless. Judging by the promo material accompanying this album, Dear Reader feel other white South African artists have used broad, people pleasing political stokes when reflecting on their countries past. This isn't an apologist album, nor does it feel worthy. Rather it sounds like personal reflections, not infallible but heartfelt, on a country that was segregated, ruled by prejudice and still harbouring secrets.

Track Listing:-
1 Down Under, Mining
2 Took Them Away
3 Good Hope
4 27/04/1994
5 From Now On
6 Man of the Book
7 Back from the Dead
8 Teller of Truths
9 Already Are
10 Cruelty On Beauty On
11 Victory

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