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CHRIS WOOD - So Much To Defend

CHRIS WOOD - So Much To Defend
R.U.F. Records RUFCD014

The R.U.F label is not to be confused with the German Ruf Records: Chris beat them to it, by founding his label two years before them.

And through the quarter of a century since, whenever award winner Chris Wood releases a new album, the whole British Folk scene sits up and takes notice. He exudes an unmistakable sense of gravitas, and you just know in your bones, that his self penned songs will be making an important statement about British life in the 21st century. And they will give you insights into the daily existences of those who often go under the radar: the old, the poor, the folk on zero-hour contracts, the asylum seekers and the hard pressed mothers trying to keep their families together. He is not much interested in the Flash Harrys and the apparent winners of the rat race. Were he writing an episode of Downton Abbey, he’d base himself very much downstairs with the workers, rather than upstairs with the chinless wonders. And the programme would be none the worse for it.

This album grabs your attention from the first moment. He opens with his title track, which immediately arrests you with its droll wit and sardonic delivery. If you want to tell a Martian what life is like in Britain today for socioeconomic groups D and E, then beam up a copy of this CD, Scotty. This is followed by the best song on the CD, This Love Won’t Let You Fail, a song that perfectly captures the bitter sweet sense of loss and hope one feels when a child leaves home for pastures new.

Then comes Only A Friendly, a song about football supporters as seen from Wood’s unconventional angle. In its own way, it is a worthy addition to Megson’s The Longshot. And the song has a most memorable closing line with a spectator shouting at the referee as he blew the final whistle “Oi referee, It’s not always all about you”. One of several occasions I laughed out loud when listening to this collection of songs: a collection on which he has been well served by three fine additional musicians, with Gary Walsh’s Hammond organ really standing out.

I had a weird dream between my album plays 2 and 3, that Chris and Rory McLeod got to make a CD together. And when I awoke, it did not seem so strange, when I’d thought it through: for the plain fact is, they sound like brothers (albeit with different accents!) and have the same dry-nearly-to-the-point-of-dehydration sense of humour that manifests itself in their songs.

The album is handsomely presented in a striking red Digipak. Pity though that the wonderfully legible liner notes are simply a print of the lyrics: Chris’s diction is so good that not one word escaped me when on my third play-through, I abandoned the lyric sheets. How much better he’d filled these pages with his thoughts on the creative process involved in these songs. But what the heck: that won’t stop it selling shedloads.

Dai Woosnam

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