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RIBBON ROAD - Our Streets Are Numbered

RIBBON ROAD - Our Streets Are Numbered
Private Label RRD009 / DVDRRD009

The protest song is alive! Brenda Heslop’s 10 brief compositions document the life, times and hardships of Horden, once a proud mining village, now a community shattered after pit closures and years of abandonment and broken promises. Its streets are numbered, not named – hence the album title.

Ribbon Road has been together for 20 years and with the other two members of the group (husband Geoff, and Jill Heslop), Brenda recounts the devastating effects of the miners’ strike, houses “boarded up just like a war zone”, the hardships of modern poverty and benefits sanctions, and the resilience of the human spirit alongside lives “wasted like the sons of Horden”. There are stories of humanity amidst tragedy, like the little girl offering her dad her money box, or the significance of the tattoo parlour. There are stories of perseverance, and glimpses of hope.

Exemplified beautifully in the title track, the melodies are simple and repetitive, almost chant-like at times, and shadowed closely by Geoff’s harmonies. Geoff and Jill also provide basic accompaniment on guitar, accordion and piano. The words and message come across clearly in Brenda’s fine north-east accent, while the lyrics are also available on the group website. The album includes a booklet with song notes.

Also released is a DVD which features the songs and ten related films by photographer Carl Joyce, a result of Brenda, Geoff and Carl’s time as Artists in Residence at Durham University, where they researched life in Horden. The band has been performing these songs alongside showings of the films in venues over the past few months, with more still to come (details on their website).

Maintaining the folk tradition of impassioned social comment and support of the underdog – sentiments too rarely heard these days - Our Streets Are Numbered is a reminder of what music can do, and the place of folk in adversity, speaking for those who are forgotten.

Jim McCourt

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This album was reviewed in Issue 117 of The Living Tradition magazine.