‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.
Very often it is, most sensibly, a band’s first album on which they will set out their stall: this is our sound; these are the views we will express in our lyrics; this is the sort of thing you can expect from us until the drugs and drink exacerbate inter-band tensions that, to be honest, have always been present in the band, everyone gets annoyed with the songwriter (and his lawyer) because he’s made more money than the lot of us – twice over – and everyone goes their own way.
Not so alternative folksters The Flowing. The band have already released an album (2010’s Garden of England) and various other recordings – not to mention appearing at many, many gigs over the years.
They have, in truth existed in various forms: from a simple one-man, singer/songwriter act where The Flowing simply was Dave Pickett through to a line-up involving musicians too many to list here.
Since Garden of England, there have been substantial changes to The Flowing’s line-up, most noticeably the arrival of French horn and accordion player, Vicky Price and violinist and oboist Hannah Ellerby, both formerly of Los Salvadores. And on the band’s new album, Talk About Wonder, released a couple of weeks ago, the pair are utilised well from the get-go.
‘The Voyage’, then, becomes a kind of mission statement or manifesto, with both the French horn and violin getting substantially sized instrumental sections.
Even before Price and Ellerby make their presence known on the song, the sound of ‘The Voyage’ indicates an evolution for The Flowing. There’s a richness there, a greater clarity and, most obviously, sound effects: the gorgeous sound of the waves lapping on the shore.
Lyrically, there’s a nervousness to ‘The Voyage’. “Travel for a foreign land,” Pickett sings in the song’s opening line. But this isn’t a power ballad about endless possibilities and new beginnings; there’s much trepidation here.
You might, after all “marry a fine sailor with wealth and misery/silver in your hair and the Devil on your wing”, “the dam [might not] hold up so well tonight” and there’s the possibility “the road don’t hold our weight”.
And yet some form of optimism – some chink of light – does sneak through, however small. Before the return to the opening verse’s lyrics, vocalist Sophie Williams sings about the importance attached to letting “them know I tried” and, most importantly leaves an instruction: “Oh boy, don’t you be afraid.”
The swelling of The Flowing’s ranks may well be travelling into foreign lands, but “The Voyage” proves to be an assured performance, despite the theme of trepidation.
Oh boy, you really don’t need to be afraid at all.
Find out more about The Flowing and other folk acts from Medway in my book, Do it Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.