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Jim Causley, Luke Thompson: Clay Hymnal: Poems of Jack Clemo review – finely sung, complex

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(Westwords Publications)

Five months on from Forgotten Kingdom, one of the finest singers in the English folk revival returns with another adventurous album, again inspired by his west country roots. But this latest set follows the same formula as his 2013 project Cyprus Well, his tribute to the much-loved Cornish poet, his relative the late Charles Causley. Jack Clemo, who died in 1994, was a close friend of Causley, and mixed religious themes with atmospheric descriptions of Cornwall’s bleak china clay mines, in poems that are far harder to set to music. Many of the songs twist and turn, to follow the verses, in finely sung, complex pieces backed by Jim’s piano. Christ in the Clay-pit is treated as a drifting hymn, and he shows his gift for sturdy, folk-influenced melodies on The Harassed Preacher, or with his up-beat backing to the spoken poems, read by Clemo’s biographer, Luke Thompson.

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