Clive Leyland Reviews

Ashley Hutchings

"A northern man"
I have now spent some time with the CD. It is something to be really proud of. From the cover artwork through to the recordings it has been carefully put together with skill and clearly a lot of love. I enjoyed the whole experience.

Brian Willoughby

"A northern man"
From beautiful booklet to well crafted songs, "A northern man" is a delight to enjoy. Clive Leyland shows his fine ability as a musician, arranger and wordsmith, with an impressive array of instruments and informative lyrics.

Outstanding songs to me are "Sail away", "They've taken the bandstand away" and the title track "A northern man", mainly for their sentimental content and sympathetic accompaniment. My lasting impression is that Clive has put a lot of thought and love into this project, reflecting his roots in the social history of the industrial North of England.

Anthony John Clarke

"A northern man"
Not only does Clive Leyland provide the listener with over an hour of thoughtfully constructed words and music but the accompanying booklet is an accomplished and thought provoking history of the struggles in northern life across the last two hundred years. Clive's stories of man and work, war and peace, in such an imaginative presentation, make this a very important work. Every child studying history should be provided with a copy. "Rhythm of the loom" is just one of the many songs in this superb collection that will live for years.

Folk North West magazine, Spring Edition 2005

CLIVE LEYLAND "A northern man" [NMMCL001]

ALL his life, Clive Leyland has been interested in music and this is reflected in his involvement with two groups, Bandersnatch and Auld Triangle, as well as playing as a solo artist. This song cycle spans 200 years as we dip in and out of the lives of ordinary folk from a Lancashire town which although it is not named, is Bolton, the one closest to Clive's heart. It looks at history and tells how lives were shaped, Clive's included. It's a ride that at times is bumpy, but well worth the journey.

A mellow piano theme introduces the CD. In 1803, with what few belongings he possesses, a farmer is forced out of his home, the lease having run out. "Farewell to the plough" is very poignant, for with just his wits and a handcart, can he scrape a living? "The better part of me" highlights a proposal made to a sweetheart with very little to offer in return. Clive shows in the opening two tracks his versatility with multitracking of no less than four instruments, as well as both lead and harmony vocals.

Cotton mills were initially looked at as lifesavers as far as jobs were concerned, that is until their demise. Invalidity caused many to stop working at a relatively early age. "Rhythm of the loom" presents the horrifying facts. A man is blown up in a coal mine, one death among many at the time. It made the headlines of the local paper and he was buried in the churchyard as "The Bells of St Katharine's" tolled, for he had been one of the bell-ringers. Clive shows off his excellent guitar playing skills on this track, played in suitably sombre tones.

In the 19th century, many young people emigrated to find a better life. As the grandfather says goodbye to his grandson, he wishes he too could escape. "Sail away" is a really singable number, popularised in the last couple of years by Auld Triangle. "Telling the bees" is an ancient tradition of recounting important family events, births, marriages, deaths and the like, to stop them flying away. Clive once more shows his real understanding of a song with a sensitive rendition.

In 1918, the Great War was over and a soldier sets off for home. "Now the war is over" explains that trip, for his friend has died and he has no idea how he can face his friend's family - another song with sombre overtones, enhanced by the use of the accordion. "The price of coal" was a high one indeed, with 344 boys and men lost in Lancashire's worst ever disaster at the Pretoria pit in 1910. A widow bemoans losing so many family members. A single drumbeat is their collective death knell.

As we now move towards the Second World War, all available ironwork was dismantled in the rush to make bombers, guns and tanks and as one little boy observes "They've taken the bandstand away", whilst the older people wonder why they have to got through war again.

In 1947, a mansion high up above Rivington was demolished. It had been home to an industrial magnate until 1925. All that remains of that man's dream are overgrown gardens. "Ruhwinton" tells the sad tale. Having outlived all her family, an 80 year old widow in America returns home to live out her last days in England in 1963. "Massachusetts bound" recalls her memories of emigration in 1910 on board the SS Ivernia out of Liverpool.

If you go up on to the moors overlooking Bolton (to "Scout Road"), the landscape is very different from that of 50 years ago. No smoke shrouded factories and mills, just the memory of what was once a thriving, bustling community. Demolition and dereliction are all that remain. The Industrial Revolution may have been and gone and only a real miracle will rejuvenate and rekindle what has been lost. Just Clive and his piano, along with his deep thoughts.

We all come from somewhere, but not so many people have really explored their roots. We are fashioned by our surroundings and should be proud of them, for better or worse. This song cycle has been quite a journey, 200 years in just over an hour's worth of words and music and it has certainly made me think more deeply about my roots.

It is a CD that is though-provoking and one that should be listened to in order to help each of us to evaluate our lives. We all want the best out of life, not only for ourselves but for those closest to us. We are on this earth for but a short span and, like Clive, I am proud to be 'A Northern Man'.

David Jones
(Reproduced by permission)

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Reviews by David Jones, Anthony John Clarke, Brian Willoughby, and Ashley Hutchings.

Copyright © 2005 Clive Leyland