Respected singer/songwriter/guitarist Boo Hewerdine celebrates his 60th year in style
Release Date: 26th March 2021
Label: Reveal Records
Formats: CD / Digital
I suppose that I’ve always admired Boo Hewerdine from a slight distance. An acoustic guitarist of great ability, a composer of wonderful, reflective songs and an accomplished and respected foil to the talents of Eddi Reader, Brooks Williams, Clive Gregson, Darden Smith and Kris Drever. His credentials and track record are impeccable but I’ve not really, until now, taken the time to sit down and really listen to his solo work. Selected Works, the new Boo Hewerdine compilation album, sequenced by Tom Rose and released by Reveal Records to celebrate Boo’s 60th year, provides an unmissable opportunity for the likes of me to get close to an excellent body of work, whilst providing a handy overview for the already converted.
I’m sure that most At The Barrier regulars are familiar with the life and work of Boo Hewerdine. For those few who aren’t, here’s a bit of background. Born in London, he grew up in Cambridge and indulged his musical leanings from an early age. He first came to most people’s attention with The Bible, the band he formed in 1985 with jazz drummer Tony Shepherd. The Bible scored a minor hit in 1989 with their single, Graceland, after which Boo left to pursue solo interests. He’s made at least 11 solo albums, starting with Ignorance, back in 1992, with his most recent offering, Before, released in 2019. He’s also released music in partnership with Darden Smith, Kris Drever and Eddi Reader, and as part of his occasional State Of The Union partnership with American, Cambridge-based, singer/songwriter Brooks Williams. And as if all that isn’t enough, his songs have been recorded by an ever-growing range of admirers, including Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, Eddi Reader and Hepburn.
Selected Works is an inspired collection that, in addition to looking right back to the earliest days of Boo’s solo career also brings things right up to date with the inclusion of a new song, The Village Bell, a lovely pastoral duet with labelmate Kris Drever that features wonderfully complementary acoustic guitars and tight vocal harmonies. And, if you missed it, the recent single The Language Of Love is also included: an opening track that gets the compilation off to an appetizing start! For the completists, the collection also includes three other songs that have not, thus far, appeared on any full-length album: the short, enchanting piano waltz, 11.:5, previously only available as a single B-side; the fantastic Why Does The Nightingale Sing? a co-composition with Brooks Williams and an enticing foretaste of State Of The Union’s forthcoming new album; and 2020 single Wanderlust, a psychedelic excursion with Rachel Haden which is markedly different to any other song on the album and is probably as reflective of Rachel’s jazz inclinations as it is of Boo’s folkier output.
Elsewhere, Bluebirds is simple, melodic love song from 2015’s Last Man Standing album that Boo put together with Kris Drever. Boo’s Swimming In Mercury album is represented by the glorious 10cc/Beach Boys-like American TV, the thought-provoking Athiest In A Foxhole and the album’s enigmatic title track. It’s A Beautiful Night is an exquisite, comfortable and reassuring number– a prime cut from 2009’s God Bless The Pretty Things, whilst The Birds Are Leaving, from the 1999 outing Thanksgiving is laced with lush strings in significant contrast to the sparse (but equally satisfying) backing favoured on the majority of Boo’s songs.
Some of the real highlights in this collection have come from a painstaking rummage through the EPs that Boo has released over the years. The excellent Follow My Tears, a fascinating and ultimately sad song that recollects a wartime marriage and the life to which it led to comes from the Toy Box No.2 EP of 2008, the simple, nostalgic, Hometown was first released on 2016’s Born and best of all, Funny Bones, a marvelous song that absolutely captures the tendency we perhaps all have to make light of serious and intimate situations whilst hoping that the other person understands and appreciates that behavior is a track from My Younger Self (2016).
The 20-track collection is concluded with Silhouette, a pleasant 1930’s pastiche, topped off with some soothing clarinet. It’s a most satisfying end to a thoroughly enjoyable compilation. Whether you’re a novice or an old hand, Selected Works is an excellent profile of Boo Hewerdine. Perhaps his 60th year will be the year that he finally gets the recognition he deserves.
Listen to Funny Bones – a track from the album – here: