Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5
A Glym Jack was 18th Century thieves slang for a Link Boy, someone you might employ to light your way home and lead you safely through the dark and unknown streets. Greg McDonald and Glymjack, ably supported by a cast that includes Phil Beer, Steve Knightly and Miranda Sykes from Show Of Hands, take the image of fire and produce a cycle of songs, some linked thematically, some by mood delivering a soundtrack for our troubled times. Sometimes the glimpses in the dark Glymjack’s torch reveals are stark and grim, sometimes it leads us true and offers hope. “Light the Evening Fire” could be a song of evening homeliness, but instead the ‘down on his luck’ singer huddles around his fire reflecting wryly on his bleak situation. Greg Mcdonald lists what he is prepared to burn to get through the night while Phi and Steve chant “On the Fire”. Twisted through a beautifully delivered song is a hard message in this folk song of the future. “The Wolf Who Cried Boy” with very clever word play takes the gathering wolves of the previous song and shows how the Gordon Gekko’s and leaders of this money motivated world are turned on when their luck falters. This is a wolf eat wolf world. Grounded in folk, with a gloriously dark version of the traditional ballad “Bows of London” and a rollicking version of “The Sweet Trinity” these tracks bookend folk ballads of contemporary Britain. Tracks like the rich “Hope Point”, a lyrical trip through rural exploitation and lives hard lived. Consciously setting McDonald’s sharp edged observations alongside older tales of the darkness in us all, “Made in England” is a tale of rough sleeping soldiers on the streets of an uncaring London. Beautiful playing, a soaring violin and an earworm chorus paints a catchy but bleak picture. Train noises become helicopters in a sweat drenched dream folk Apocalypse Now moment and bleed into “Night Vision” thoughts of the dispossessed servicemen. This album highlight track crackles with atmosphere and venom setting the dark against the ordinary. Anthemic Bright Sparks closes the album, a tribute to two bright beacons of English progressive politics, John Ball, radical Priest involved in the peasant’s revolt and Emily Davison suffragette protester killed at Epsom Derby. Again the writing and the use of language is stunning. The tune is stirring and the sentiment of sparks, stamped out but fanned by time is inspired. The cycle is complete, we are back at the evening fire, marginalised, forgotten, eyes closed lost in thought we see sparks. “First they call you a head case, then they call for your head”. The album starts with a refuge fire and ends with a metaphorical fire of hope delivering bright sparks. This is a brilliant album, storytelling through a cycle of gritty songs like Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. At times brooding and atmospheric like Roger Waters or Pink Floyd. At times it does sound a little like Show Of Hands, but to many, me included, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Greg McDonald and Glymjack names to remember.