ANDY WALL - Wall To Wall

ANDY WALL - Wall To Wall
FolkSound Records AWCD1

This is a new name to me.  Which, seeing as he has been on the Folk Scene since the Pope was an altar boy, means that either he – or me – does not get around enough.

Checking him out on the Internet, I discover that he is a stalwart of the Ely Folk Festival.  But seeing as I have never attended that highly regarded event, I can be excused for not noting his name (though perhaps not excused for never making that festival!)

So, that sets the scene.    And thus, in a week where his CD arrived in a package from TLT with two other CDs for review (and they were by Folk superstars Roy Bailey and Christy Moore), it would be easy for this reviewer to find Andy’s album “wanting”, compared to its stellar competitors.

But, in truth, it stood up surprisingly well.      Let me tell you what it is, and what it is not.

Let’s start with the negatives so the review then can only get warmer in tone, and I can sign off on a high.  (But I bet my review won’t work out as planned!)

As the promo material accompanying the CD tells it: “Andy doesn’t write – he’s not a singer/songwriter.  What he does is take other people’s songs and make them his own.”

Does he heck as like!   I swear that if I ever read this type of hyperbole again, with review copies of CDs, I will not be answerable for my choice of vituperative adjectives.

No, what Andy does, is perform wonderfully pleasant COVER versions.   They are light years away from being “interpretations”.   His Lovin’ Spoonful song is pure John Sebastian phrasing; his Dave Burland take on Dory Previn is Dave Burland in everything but the Burland vowel sounds; his Rosemary’s Sister could have been sung by the master himself back in Brynwawr; and his Drift Away made me drift away to the day about 8 years ago when the great Jack Hudson sat in my lounge just feet away from where I am typing this: so redolent was his performance of Jack’s arrangement.

But so what?  Is that a hanging offence?   Of course not!  Very few artistes have it in them to be true originals.

Andy Wall has instead brought out a very respectable album of folk/folk(ish) favourites.    (A beautifully crisply produced one, to boot, by respected sound engineer Graham Bradshaw.)   There are one or two songs that one would not usually see in such collections – like Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia On My Mind, Steve Womack’s Joanna – and one song completely new to me: Dillon Bustin’s Rolling and Flowing.   And they added something to the mix.     Plus his pleasant - if unexceptional – voice, and his (generally) accomplished guitar style, well, they really delivered.

I say “generally”.  But the truth is, your CD can show such info as “Andy Wall plays Martin M18 and Gibson J45 deluxe guitars” till the cows come home:  however the greatest guitar in the world won’t help you if your accompaniment is as unimaginative as Andy’s is on the aforementioned Joanna.    But that was just one hiccough in fifteen tracks of self-accompaniment. 

As for his vocals: I would like to see him singing these songs as if he had written them.   (So, one’s voice has no special DNA to make it one’s USP.?  All the more reason then, to make it one’s business to inhabit the song.   Being a “pleasant” singer alas, is not enough.

Spend a day in a locked room with Glenn Gould and JS Bach for company.   Gould’s genius was to make you think he was composing this sublime music as he went along.)

Sermon over.   And now summing-up time.

And guess what?   I really enjoyed this album.

But save me all the “puts his own stamp on it” guff, next time, puhlease!

Dai Woosnam
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This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.