Gathered is a lyricist’s delight, as would be expected from a writer fluent in many forms: a profound and coherent expression of all kinds of implacable commitment, personal or political, related with a tender and unflinching hand.
Here, Burbridge’s dark-humoured, melodic pieces, his genuinely weathered voice and singular guitar-playing, are augmented only by the subtle shade and impetus of Cotterell’s sensitive interpretation on a range of instruments.
It is an album to sit down with late into the night and listen to repeatedly, which nonetheless abounds with fragments of jigs, reels and other tunes.
This is a fruitful partnership. Burbridge’s career spans decades, writing songs covered by artists from The Levellers, to Damien Barber, Paul Downes, and Maggie Boyle, and formerly published by Joe Boyd; niche poetry collections, fringe theatre plays and Radio 4 productions; a political thriller, and a non-fiction book on Northern Ireland launched at the House Of Commons.
Cotterell, meanwhile, who both recorded and mixed this record, is one of the younger generation of Alt Folk specialists, a director of Brighton’s Access To Music, mainstay of Martha Tilston’s The Woods, Legacy and Tricks Upon Travellers, session player for the Oysterband’s John Jones, among many others, and a vital cog in the eccentric McDermotts machinery.
There is no need to resort to the publicist’s hyperbole here. Gathered comes, simply, with a challenge. If any similar album tackles inner and outer struggles so artfully yet honestly, showing such respect for the tradition yet awareness of contemporary forms, then let this one be rolled aside. If not, let it take its rightful place in the idiom where it belongs.
“Great melodies, acerbic, canny lyrics” (fRoots). “The sound of a musician and songwriter at a creative peak” (R2)