Jack Rutter completes his trilogy of love letters to Folk music.
Release Date: 27th October 2023
Format: digital / CD
It’s almost four years to the day since Gold Of Scar And Shale, the second of a planned trio of releases, hit the streets. We commented at the time on how just a man and a guitar singing folk songs in a studio with the expertise of Joe Rusby at the desk and a few friends adding their two penn’orth works so well – might sound simple but it works. Jack is joined on the new album by a small (quality over quantity) supporting cast, Mike McGoldrick and Patsy Reid in this case. The cycle is now satisfyingly complete as This Is Something Constant brings closure with another supremely crafted collection of traditional folk gems.
We come to the album on the back of a stirring solo set at Manchester Folk Festival, when Jack fired out a volley of songs that took no prisoners and demanded the attention of a late-night club crowd, already sated by a gutful of Folk. The fact that he’s armed with a powerhouse of an acoustic Gibson that’s his main weapon of choice which he brandishes with glee, makes him a potent performer.
The term ‘constant’ in the album title is quite apt. There’s a familiar theme about the album packaging and artwork and the format of gathering folk songs. Some may say Gabriel-esque, considering the common artwork/logo theme of PG’s first four albums, and given that Jack often performs Solsbury Hill, there may be a nod there to the main man. The album also pays tribute to the ‘constancy’ of Folk music as Jack declares (in a somewhat familiar phrase to Partridge fans), how he’s “just a fan of the songs and the music.“
Of course, the songbooks and Folk song collections have been mined thoroughly, the stories pored over, with highwaymen, Morris dancers, the Devil and a high drama finale all making significant appearances. It’s John Nevison (“the second most famous highwayman” he informed us in Manchester) who welcomes us to witness Jack’s harmonica making an appearance in the tale of a dastardly fellow that’s given a striking arrangement and crescendo with some evocative fiddle from Patsy.
“It’s never been recorded before has this one,” writes Jack in true Yorkshire, no-nonsense manner in his commentary on Earl Scarslington’s Seven Daughters. It’s a surprising revelation, for ’tis a narrative that follows true Folk tropes yet with a Rutter twist in the adaptation. In much the same way, the lively party romp, Many’s The Night is described as one that “sounded like an excellent ‘do’” (it is too), as the Rutter/McGoldrick/Reid combo do justice with a stirring delivery and an album highlight in the pocket. The vibrant and light-hearted thread continues with Jack on concertina for a passionate and joyous Morris-influenced Shepherd On The Mountain with all manner of red-cheeked joviality and general happiness. For William and Nancy it’s a proper ‘ lived happily ever after’ story
At the other end of the spectrum, a more sombre side is explored in Ninety Nine And Ninety where the accompaniment from McGoldrick complements some fine playing from Jack that follows the vocal melody. Demonstrating prowess as a perceptive storyteller in song is the melancholy sentiment he brings to Lord Maxwell’s Last Goodnight while James Atley And Sir Fenix is enriched with a Celtic vibe from the pipes and whistles to soundtrack a story of theft, deceit and trial by combat – but with a happy ending all in a six-minute vignette.
Up On The Mountains High finds the set on a high, naturally out in the open, probably God’s own country and carrying a guitar, breathing in fresh air and finding riches in the beauty of the landscape. It completes a fine and bold collection of traditional numbers from an increasingly confident and uncompromising musician. “This whole Folk thing is brilliant,” he admits and you have to admire his youthful enthusiasm and passion for the tradition that comes in droves in this fine finale to the trilogy.