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Tracey Browne and Raevennan Husbandes - East by North West

  by Mary O'Meara

published: 14 / 3 / 2015

Tracey Browne and Raevennan Husbandes - East by North West
Label: Tracey Browne and Raevennan Husbandes
Format: CD


Enchanting joint album between Manchester singer-songwriters, Tracey Browne and Raevennan Husbandes

You know the old adage that you should never judge a book by its cover? In principle and (often in practice) I agree. Yet, there's something wonderfully satisfying about a piece of literature - or in this case music, that comes encased in an enchanting wrapping, reflecting pleasingly the work inside. 'East by North West' arrived this way, with Niamh Murray's cover art immediately reminding me of the original book cover of Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' but with a strange luminous quality, like the mountains and grass are alive and then there's an old hippie caravan of sorts positioned there under the moonlight. I mention all this because it does have some bearing on what's inside. One of the main themes I get from this record is journeying, by which I mean physical trips ("I spend more time on the road than I do in your arms") and inner travels that plummet to the depths of the soul and lots of geographies in between. A sense of place (along with the movement) is a feature of these songs - something I love when done so naturally as it is here with "Oh Manchester, you look so pretty in the night time" on opening track 'Going Home' and then on the closing track we walk the streets of Dublin or specifically Raglan Road and Grafton Street (more on that later) which, of course, both also happen to be streets in Manchester, so there's a lovely full circle there, a sense of completion echoing that full moon looking down on the record sleeve. So, ramblings aside, where has this album come from and who are Tracey and Raevennan? Both are successful singer-songwriters who have decided to collaborate, like two hitch-hikers sharing a journey and bonding beautifully along the road. They first crossed paths at a week's residency along with folk act The Unthanks at Manchester's Band on the Wall in 2012 and ended up pooling their talents for this album last year. Neither dominates, neither is submerged, both simply harmonize vocals and a range of guitars to build a solid body of work, gentle and shimmering (like those city lights) on some tracks and buoyant and almost mischievous on others such as 'I'm Gonna to Get Myself in Trouble' and 'Fire in Your Heart', which I just can't get out of my skull every time I hear it. If I didn't know who this was I might...I might have thought it was a Christine McVie-fronted Fleetwood Mac track! We even get a guest backing vocal from neighbouring songbird Katie Ware (Little Sparrow) who flutters onto track four leaving a faint but distinctive footprint. Track four is the slinky, cautionary tale 'Good as News' with some killer lyrics sung here by Tracey (“Success is a liar, he’s a slippery fish/He’s an egg and a spoon and high heeled shoes.”). The album possesses a true balance of tempo and pace, providing tender tracks like the beautiful 'Peacemaker' along with the toe-tapping 'I'm Gonna to Get Myself in Trouble' in trouble containing an infectious accordion played by Belinda O’Hooley. There’s one track that has succeeded in making me shut my eyes and just listen in awe. This is the final offering - a rendition of the poet Patrick Kavanagh’s 'Raglan Road' set to music as it has been many times before, to the traditional air of 'Dawning of the Day'. If you aren’t familiar with the poem let me just state that it’s one of the most heart-breaking, melancholic pieces of poetry I know. The wonderful version here is performed by Tracey and Raevennan with such feeling and fineness of touch it sends shivers round the room and leaves me unable to do little else but sigh. The piece is poignantly delivered by voices with barely any instrumentation, and it closes the album down with a sadness that lingers long after the audio finishes. 'East by North West' is a journey guided by stars overhead and the soul as a compass. Tread softly and enjoy the ride.

Track Listing:-
1 Coming Home
2 Peacemaker
3 To the Sea
4 As Good as News
5 In the End
6 I'm Gonna Get Myself in Trouble
7 Fire in Your Heart
8 Blood & Bone
9 On Raglan Road

Band Links:-

Visitor Comments:-
3402 Posted By: Jackie Pearce, London UK on 19 Dec 2022
Listened to "Coming Home" has made me keen to catch you two in concert

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