Do you ever get it when you can’t stop playing a track over and over again? Well, this one particular track has been driving me crazy now for the past two weeks.
It was, I suppose, more than fitting that I first played it driving through the English countryside when I was back visiting. It was unintentional but, as it turns out, perfectly appropriate. Best I explain.
Many things have come out of England but some of its best kept secrets lie tucked away in the green fields, along the back lanes, and tucked away in the village green life that still, if you look hard enough, exists. Quirky and eccentric Olde England, how I love you.
So there I was driving through the countryside when I played Mother Black Cap’s second album The English Way. Never in the field of human conflict has an album been so perfectly named. Rarely has a band captured the intrinsic eccentricity that makes England, well, English.
Up on the East coast of Norfolk lies a seaside town called Great Yarmouth. From there comes a progressive rock band by the name of Mother Black Cap. Sadly, I missed their first album, In The Comfort Of Your Own Home, released in 2006, but I will certainly be seeking it out.
It was the first track on The English Way that refused to budge from my CD player and my befuddled, eccentric, English mind. It has to be said that "Breydon Sunrise" is utterly wonderful. Taken from a poem by Tony Amis it has been put to music by Mother Black Cap in a way that somehow encapsulates the very essence of the shires.
As if to prove the point the next track, "Child Of Our Time", when I finally got to play it, includes the line “the sun is shining, on the village green, it’s beaming rays ripple across the pond”.
You can almost hear the cricket ball being hit for four, watch the morris dancers by the maypole, see the round of real ale sitting alongside a ploughmans lunch, and enjoy the inevitable cream tea.
This nostalgic image of such a rich heritage hasn’t been suggested so well since Roy Harper wrote "When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease" and "One of These Days In England."
In short, if you like your Prog to have a nice touch of folk, whilst paying equal homage to the likes of Floyd, early Genesis, and Dutch eccentrics Focus, then you really must try this.
To my delight the album magically maintains the strength of "Breydon Sunrise" throughout. It ends with the sprawling eighteen minutes of the title track itself. This is a piece so timely that I make no excuses for including so many of its lines here to help highlight the point. It successfully underlines that Mother Black Cap hasn't lost its sense of reality amid all the nostalgia.
It opens with the rueful “looking back on past glories”. It then travels through the thoughts of modern day dark avenues of regret that any free thinking ageing Englishman is very possibly harbouring.
Lines such as, “reality TV, talentless celebrity, world’s full of wannabees”, and, “4 x 4’s with no mountains to climb, with 300 horses where one used to be fine, what has become of my England?”, say what many us feel. It's Jethro Tull’s image of Heavy Horses, or one of the finest moments of Genesis, Selling England By The Pound.
All the modern day gadgetry that we are surrounded by receive the Mother Black Cap treatment before they add the very English, “put on the kettle to solve a crisis, pint of beer to forget the troubles of the day, stiff upper lip, keep in your emotions, this is after all, The English Way”.
However, the album ends with a wonderful twist as they proudly point out, “the land of Shakespeare and the Queen, The Beatles and the village green, Roy Of The Rovers saves the day, this is after all The English Way. This green and pleasant land, in this place we call England. Village, town, city, I just want to stay and live my life The English Way.”
There is quality musicianship aplenty, tracks that creep into your psyche and take up residence indefinitely, and lyrics that are oh so timely. I am glad this album and this band came my way.
Wonderfully quirky, eccentric, quaint, and so very English this is Mother Black Cap and this is The English Way. I feel homesick now.