Here's further proof that Patsy Matheson is one of our most original songwriters. Once a member of the all-female Waking the Witch, she released a remarkable solo album two years ago that was full of thoughtful, emotional songs about love. She returns to the theme here with a new set that shows her gift for strong melodies, and ranges from the pained but passionate No Contract to the bleak and witty Not the One, and a bravely intense study of love and longing, Seven Buttons. For contrast, there's a troubled and spooky story about hacking, From Your Computer. Her last album was very much a DIY affair, but this time round her easygoing vocals and guitar work are helped out by backing from distinguished admirers, with the duo of Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow adding accordion, keyboards and backing vocals, and Anna Esslemont from Uiscedwr playing fiddle.
Robin Denselow, The Guardian
Although I was slightly disappointed to find that The Hollies was a trad flavoured fiddle driven song about her teenage lost love fellow musician rather than a tribute to the enduring Manchester legends, Matheson’s third solo album since the demise of Waking The Witch, is a listening pleasure that serves to underscore her, somewhat undervalued, status as one of contemporary folk’s finest voices and writers.
Opening with the beguiling slow waltz title track Domino Girls, a bittersweet number about a commitment-phobic ladies man that features O’Hooley and Tidow on backing vocals, she rings several stylistic changes, moving between the acoustic cello-blessed, self-conflicted No Contract where she evokes classic Janis Ian (as indeed she also does on Seven Buttons’ sensually slow breathy blues vibe (accordion courtesy O’Hooley) about stolen moments of love and the jazzed folk echoes of Pentangle to the deftly fingerpicked ‘don’t fall for me’ warning that is Not The One.
Backed throughout by Jon Short on double bass, Anna Esslemon on fiddle and either Will Reddy or Richard Ferdinando on drums, it’s as musically accomplished as you would imagine, but it’s her relaxed, assured vocals, catchy melodies and wry lyrics that are its greatest strengths.
Listen to the breezy shuffle of Red For Danger’s playful invitation to a prospective lover not to be put off by her red hair (a true story told to her by an elderly lady in her audience, apparently) and the husky timbre in which she delivers Song For Norman’s thank you for a devoted platonic relationship and then note how smoothly she switches tone with From Your Computer, its sinister account of webcam hacking cyber-stalking embellished by brooding double bass and the spooked witchwood folk atmosphere.
There’s just one non-original number here, the closing jazzy shuffle Chasing Rainbows having been penned by Boo Hewerdine. It’s light and engagingly upbeat, but it’s testament to Matheson’s talents that it’s also the weakest and least interesting song in the collection. Go on, box ‘em domies.
Mike Davies, Folk Radio
PATSY MATHESON'S fine lyrics are deceptively simple, as in the opening slow waltz Domino Girls ('Look at them fall/Fall at your feet/All the domino girls you meet') about a shallow and ultimately lonely womaniser. The track features Belinda O'Hooley and Heidi Tidow, who add their accordion, keyboards and backing vocals to Domino Girls, the third solo album from former Waking The Witch band member Matheson. Not the One is stark and striking and her smooth vocals and guitar work are on top form throughout.
Martin Chilton, The Telegraph - "Folk Music: treats for spring 2014"
Two years on from the excellent ‘Stories Of Angels & Guitars’ Patsy Matheson is back with a new album and a departure in that she uses a lot more guest musicians, along with a lot of strings which is always a welcome treat in my book.
Like previous albums the majority of the songs are about relationships or current events, like the creepy practice of teenagers webcams being hacked on ‘From Your Computer’. ‘Song For Norman’ shows the benefit the added cello brings, which coupled with the multi-tracked harmony vocals on the chorus make for one glorious listen. Mention to the double bass playing of Jon Short that provides a steady beat, none more so than on ‘Red For Danger’ and lends a more menacing air to the aforementioned ‘From Your Computer’.
The only downside to the album? It is only ten songs, but then each one warrants its place and ‘Chasing Rainbows’, the only song not written by Patsy but by Boo Hewerdine, gives a positive end to the album.
Quite possibly her most accomplished album to date and an album that reinforces her as my favourite female singer next to Kate Bush and former Nightwish vocalist Tarja.
Jason Ritchie, Get Ready To Rock
Singer-songwriter Patsy Matheson has returned with her most accomplished work to date.
‘Domino Girls’ is a stunning collection of 10 songs that confirms her standing as one of the most talented artists on the folk scene today.
West Yorkshire-based Matheson has always been comfortable occupying centre stage with her guitar, her poetry and her voice. On this album she has also surrounded herself with a stellar cast of collaborators - musicians she has both admired and championed, folk favourites Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, former Uiscedwr fiddle player Anna Esslemont and cellist Sarah Smout, (Rosie Doonan & the Snapdragons, Michael Chapman), among them.
This has resulted in a mature, sumptuous sound where the honeyed vocals drip with emotion and a flirty playfulness, adding to the rich textures which blend perfectly to produce a supremely satisfying whole.
On the face of it ‘Domino Girls’ feels like a very personal album for Matheson - yet the songs deal with universal themes of love, longing. regret and friendship which means it has wide appeal.
It is virtually impossible to pull out highlights which gives an indication of the album’s strengths.
‘Domino Girls’ is a significant addition to Matheson’s body of work and it will be fascinating to see how she follows this triumph.
John Metcalfe, Halifax Courier
LIVE at KORKS, Otley - 16/05/2014
Patsy Matheson - Edginess adds to an impressive folk set
Patsy scowled and turned to face the bar. Oblivious, in incongruous stilettos the two women continued their hushed conversation. Patsy would sort them out in the break with a few well chosen words but they were disrupting her flow.
In some ways the edge that this provided was echoed in the songwriting. Patsy provides a soundtrack for the Pre Raphaelites if they had been a sisterhood. And this sisterhood brooks no interruption. First set solo, percussive finger picking underpinning serenades to male friendship and family ties. Woe betide the man who falls for her – as with the Pre-Raphs her male “stunners” are warned “don't fall in love with me cos you are not the one”. Being folk music any man ignoring the warning may be taken out and shot.
After a break Patsy was joined by Sarah Smout, lathering her cello all over the songs and “the best bass player in the world”, Jon Short.
A generous performer Patsy welcomed Georgette Hilton, who had opened for her, back to the stage to share vocal duties. I enjoy the democracy of folk – there is a genuine sense of a community of performance.
The massed choir of Korks back room provided a hushed chorus on a couple of occasions and some rather dodgy whistling – fortunately just once.
Patsy delighted in her recent 4* review in the Guardian if only because it would increase the Otley circulation by one – her mum! National critics have raved about these songs and so did the Otley crowd. Songs that mine the history of folk but take an alternative view.
A subtle craft is at work here. Beautiful reflections on family and identity – how tragedy in one life can lead to new life, how we take on and develop important facets of our parents and grandparents and how we can choose the image we present to the world.
Red for danger but chasing rainbows until the end.
SPIRAL EARTH interview (10/04/2014)
Founder member and one quarter of the award winning female acoustic group, Waking the Witch, Patsy has been writing songs and winning over audiences ever since 1991, when, as a young singer/songwriter, she entered a song writing competition, and was chosen as the winner by none other than Maddy Prior and Clive Gregson.
Congratulations on your album. How does it feel now it's out?
Thank you. Yep. It feels brilliant actually. It’s released on 31st March, so not really ‘out’ yet officially, but a few people have had copies for reviewing, radio play etc. It feels good to have it finished. It’s the same with every record I’ve done – I always feel very excited when it gets delivered and I open the boxes, get one out, unwrap the cellophane and stick it on the player – but I was particularly giddy about this one. I’m happier with this record than with any other I’ve made. It feels more grown up and more musically accomplished – mainly because of the wonderful contributions from my friends who have played on it. Usually at this stage I worry about whether people will like what I’ve done or not. But I’ve given up all that now. It’d be nice if everybody loves it – but it’s far more important that I know it’s the best thing I’ve made yet. I’ve always striven to move forward and not stand still musically.
How did the recording go?
I love recording anyway, so it’s always a delight for me – but there were some particular high points with this one. I recorded much of the guitars and vocals live with the drums – so we got a real relaxed live feel going – which was something I’d not done before. Will Reddy who is my nephew did most of the drumming. He’s only fifteen – but his playing is fantastic throughout – and we have that real intuitive connection thing going on where you instinctively know what where the other person is going to go next– like siblings – which was just ace. Another high point was when I first heard Sarah Smout’s cello part for the song ‘No Contract’. I did actually sob. I was very moved that someone could contribute something so beautiful to something that I’ve written. And Belinda O’Hooley’s Fender Rhodes bit on ‘From Your Computer’ also made my bottom lip go a bit wobbly when I heard it. And Anna Esslemont’s fiddle part on ‘the Hollies’. And Belinda and Heidi’s singing. It was all a bit overwhelming really.
How do you find the writing process? And were there any particular themes you explored?
I don’t have a set writing process. Songs appear in all sorts of different ways, and the ones on this record are no exception. Sometimes they just pop up out of nowhere – a bit like being given a present, and the whole thing flows out in one go in a couple of minutes – (‘Say You Do’, ‘No Contract’) or sometimes I decide I want to write something about something particular – and then they take a bit of work (‘From Your Computer’ – about webcam hacker/stalkers) Or sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and then develop it the next day (‘Domino Girls’).
There’s a song called ‘Red for Danger’ on this record which is about a chance meeting and a love at first sight experience that happened when the hat belonging to the red headed girl in the story was blown off by a gust of wind, and the man who picked it up and returned it to her, immediately fell in love with her. I wrote this following a conversation with an elderly lady in the audience at one of my shows. She was being very complimentary about my hair, and told him that hers had once been the same – and the hat story was how she met her husband who was so smitten with her ginger hair that he fell in love with her at first sight. She said that a song should be written about it and that she thought I was the girl to do it. So I did. But I set it in Otley where I live. And wrote it in the first person.
‘The Hollies’ is another anecdotal love song. It’s based on a true story too, with some of the facts just massaged a bit to make it more interesting. This was me when I was 18 and with my first proper love. We spent an entire year listening to Planxty and playing Irish tunes in pubs. I was at Leeds University and doing a degree at the time...not a lot of studying was done. Anna Esslemont plays the fiddle on this one, and it brings the whole story alive.
When did you first pick up a guitar? And what/when was your first public performance?
I picked up the guitar when I was fifteen. I’ve never had any lessons, and just play by ear. I’m a completely illiterate musically actually – and never even know what key I’m playing in. It’s a pity. But too late now to change. I sang in a couple of bands at school, but didn’t really perform seriously until I moved to Leeds. My first proper public performance with me and a guitar was at the Grove Inn in Leeds, which is one of the best music pubs on the planet. I still play there from time to time.
How’s your area of the world for musicians and fans?
I live in Otley, which is just North of Leeds and I do believe that everybody in Otley is either a musician themselves or lives with one. It’s an amazing place to be. Phil Snell, who co-produced’ Domino Girls’ and my last album ‘Stories of Angels & Guitars’ with me, lives next door but one and his studio is in his house – so that’s really handy. I have two fabulous music venues – Otley Courthouse and Korks – both at the end of my street – so I get to see lots of my friends as they’re passing through. Tonight it’s Brooks Williams!
What were some early key albums you listened to?
‘Blood on the Tracks’ and ‘Desire’ by Bob Dylan
‘Tubular Bells’ – Mike Oldfield.
‘Joan Armatrading’ – Joan Armtrading
‘Catch the Wind’ – Donovan
‘Solid Air’ – John Martyn
‘Deja Vu’ – Crosby Stills Nash & Young
‘America’ – America
All pinched from my big brother’s collection of vinyl. I still listen to all of these records from time to time. My taste hasn’t developed a great deal really!
Who are you currently listening to?
Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, ‘the Hum’. Great record. I love Paul Weller. Boo Hewerdine - I love his writing. And he’s very funny and makes me laugh. Kate Bush. I have her on in the car a lot. She is a genius. And I MUST get tickets to see her live show in August.
If the phone rings tomorrow and you are invited to join someone's tour, who would you want it to be?
I did a whole series of gigs supporting Christie Moore sometime in the last century. I supported him at his Bradford gig and ended up being invited to do the rest of the tour. It was amazing – great big venues (Birmingham Symphony Hall, Liverpool Philharmonic, etc) and I was very honoured to be there. And he is just brilliant – fantastic performer, hugely charismatic and a lovely bloke. I had met him a few years previously and he had changed the strings on my guitar for me. He said it had been fifteen years since he’d done that, as he has a team of techies that do his! I also supported John Martyn a couple of times – who was equally lovely. If he was still with us, he’d be my first choice.
What's next for you?
Well short term – I’m looking forward to releasing the album and getting back on the road again. The tour starts next Thursday (27th March) in Rothbury and continues through till mid May. There’ll be a few guests turning up along the way – so some of the shows I’m doing completely on my own – which will be exciting – and some will be more of a collaborative, spur of the moment thing. I love that. I’ve not really thought a great deal beyond that. I’ve been treated for cancer over the last couple of months – and I have a five week, five days a week course of chemo and radiotherapy coming up starting as soon as these dates finish – so my short term goal is to get through all of that and remain smiling. I’m talking to Anna Esslemont about doing some work with her in the Autumn – she’s a great singer and fiddle player and we’d both love to find the time to work together – so it would be daft not to really – plus I’d like to take Sarah Smout out on the road too. Sounds like a right band to me.
Interview With Patsy Matheson, “A Leeds Treasure” (Phil Kirby 30/04/2014)
‘That new album from Patsy Matheson is bloody wonderful’ – Chris Nickson, Novelist, Music Journalist, Biographer, interviews Patsy Matheson ahead of her gig at Korks in Otley …
Patsy Matheson is a Leeds treasure. She might have been born down South, but she’s lived her long enough and been such a vital part of the Leeds music scene to qualify as a Yorkshirewoman. Even before she arrived to study a Leeds University, she’d been playing guitar and writing songs. But it was Leeds that really sparked her.
“I set up a folk club at uni, because there wasn’t one and they’d give you a grant,” Matheson recalls. “Then a friend took me down to my first session at the White Stag in town. That was a revelation. I didn’t know it, but Leeds was a centre for traditional music then. After that, the friend of someone in my halls came through with his band – they were based in Manchester. So there was all this music.”
After graduation, she began working at a new Leeds venue, the Duchess of York, which run by Mick Longbottom.
“He wanted to call it the Marquee,” Matheson remembers, “but the owner of the Marquee threatened to sue. Then it went through several names before he settled on the Duchess. I booked local acts from Sunday to Thursday, and John Keenan did the rest. My first gig there was opening for Nico.”
She became a regular performer there and at the Irish Centre, then in 1991 won the Song for 91 contest. But it wasn’t until ’96 that she released her first CD, With My Boots On, took the plunge and became a full-time musician – one of her earliest gigs was at Glastonbury.
Matheson put her solo career on hold for four years to become a member of Waking the Witch, a band that won rave reviews and toured all over the UK, taking up her mantle again in 2008.
“I was really lucky. Clive Gregson went on the road with me, just accompanying me on electric. One of the gigs was a festival up in Lanarkshire that a friend had organised. We were in a pub, by the passage to the toilets. Clive just looked at me. But it turned out to be one of the best gigs I’ve ever played. I’m going back there this year, playing with Dougie MacLean.”
Right now, she’s on the road again, touring for her newest album, Domino Girls, her most accomplished to date, where the songs not only have hidden depths (“No Contract,” for example) but also local references (“The Hollies”).
“I feel I’m really hitting my stride now,” she says. “I love what I do. If I ever reach the stage where I don’t, I’ll stop.”
Thankfully, stopping altogether doesn’t seem likely. And even if she does, she’ll still be certain to fit in her local gig at Kork’s in Otley on May 16. She’ll be joined by double bass player Jon Short and cellist Sarah Smout, both of whom feature on Domino Girls, with Georgette Hilton (Ronnie Hilton’s granddaughter, for those who’ve been around a while) as support.
Patsy Matheson and Becky Mills - LIVE
Patsy Matheson & Becky Mills, Live Review, Korks, Otley, February 2012
‘I don’t know if it’s possible to have two doyennes, but if it is, Patsy and Becky would fall into such a category. As pop fans know, they were once 50% of the acoustic super group Waking the Witch and have subsequently toured extensively as solo artists. Here, at Otley’s premier night spot, they were in excellent form, having honed their craft over the previous few weeks touring the length and indeed breadth of the country.
I arrived too late to see anything but the dying chords of the final number by support act, Tuckoo, although I am assured that they did an excellent job and are worth catching if they play a venue near you. Tenor sax player Annie Raynor provided a guest solo on one of Patsy and Becky's encores with much aplomb.
The evening was split evenly between material from Patsy's newly released and critically acclaimed album " Stories of Angels and Guitars", and Becky's yet to be released "Dandelion" which is apparently in danger of being renamed "Imminent" as its release has been promised for some time now.
Both these performers have beautifully complementary singing voices and are proficient players, in fact it must be 35 years since I encountered anyone using an "E-bow". Their experience as performers is evident in the seemingly effortless manner in which they create an intimate and friendly atmosphere, not for them the laboured bonhomie of many folk artists, just genuine warmth.
For the majority of the gig they were accompanied by bass player Jon Short and percussionist Fin McArdle who certainly add a dynamic with some beautifully unfussy and understated playing. For me, favourites were ‘Hundred Guitars’ and a skilful reworking of Dylan’s ‘One More Cup of Coffee’, but it was all good really. Worth catching up with if you can’
– Francis Denning, Leeds Music Scene
Patsy Matheson & Becky Mills, Live Review, Bridgwater Arts Centre, March 2012
An appreciative, discerning audience warmly applauded Becky Mills & Patsy Matheson on Friday 9th March, when they made a welcome return to Somerset's most historic & much-loved venue.
Playing Bridgwater Arts Centre for the first time since splitting from their former partners in the Waking The Witch foursome, this blonde & red-headed duo enchanted their fans with laid-back, mostly self-penned, touching lyrics & delightful tunes unique to themselves but inspired out of widely popular genres.
The girls came out to perch on boxes among a small forest of guitars, inclining nonchalantly on their stands. Becky & Patsy picked up a coupla instruments & began chatting with their patrons like long-time pals & from cheery comments tossed between occupants of stage & floor, a relaxed, friendly atmosphere immediately blossomed. Then they began plucking.
Although just another gig on their extensive national tour, these lovable lasses made Bridgwater folk feel special with jokes & genuinely uninhibited, chummy chit-chat, counter-pointed with one or two touching anecdotes that later in the programme, included the extraordinary & truly moving, true story that inspired Patsy's deeply personal & pivotal solo, 'Sylvia Jean.'
Musically, the entertainment is egalitarian throughout; alternating solos between them, backing each other with vocals & instrumentals & sometimes singing in duet. Both singers are gifted with huge ranges of voice, in pitch & timbre, complemented by their acoustic stringed instruments, & subtle percussion - the girls sit on small tea chests that their heels & hands transform into percussion, all blending beautifully with 'shaky shaky' accessories to create exciting & emotional effects.
Gluttons for company, Patsy insisted we, the audience, join in a couple of choruses, which despite the self-effacing shyness typical of Bridgwater people, we did, & enjoyed the pleasure. Patsy also fingered (too little) a gorgeous mandolin in exquisite & intricate harmony with the rich, deeper tone of Becky's melodic guitar, and Becky even played the Jews Harp like a virtuoso, accompanying one of Patsy's numbers. Every song they gave us was a delight.
Two sets, well-filled with dozens of songs, haunting, romantic & sad, came too soon to an end, but the last number - & even taking the bow - they turned into a light-hearted, happy event. Responding to the question "Would we be welcomed back again?" the audience gladly confirmed they would. But then, for an encore, cheerfully offered, we were treated to the superbly apt and heart-breaking simplicity of: "Will you stay ... or just politely say, Goodnight !" Sentimental? Yes! And we're all the better for it.
But happily, these gorgeous artistes did stay awhile longer, continuing conversations with all & sundry, proving their friendly natures genuine, but also to sell Patsy's CD "Stories of Angels & Guitars" & taking orders for Becky's "Dandelion," due for "imminent release" - by about end April, early May; (unavoidable delay, regretted).
Becky Mills & Patsy Matheson will be welcome any time, not only to culture craving Bridgwater, but to everywhere else on their tour, too, no doubt, hopefully accompanied by a fresh CD, just of their musical selves, together.
-Arthur Duncan, Remote Goat
Patsy Matheson & Becky Mills, The Wheelhouse, Barnsley, February 2012
Once again the Wheelhouse in Wombwell provided the ideal setting for a couple of touring musicians to perform some of their new songs with the first appearance at the venue by former Waking the Witch singer-songwriters Patsy Matheson and Becky Mills. Maintaining the essence of that much missed all-female vocal harmony quartet, Patsy and Becky mixed new material with older songs, together with the odd 1980s cover thrown in. Starting with a couple of staples from the Waking the Witch repertoire, Patsy's There For Me, which first appeared as the opening song on the band's debut album and for most remains the defining song for these voices, immediately followed by Becky's Jenny Thornton and the Boys From the Abattoir, a song that provided the band's final album its memorable name.
Relaxed and in good humour, the duo gave a faultless performance tonight, with two sets packed with new songs, some from Patsy's newly released STORIES OF ANGELS AND GUITARS such as Under Your Wing, No Angel, Hundred Guitars and the beautifully sad Sylvia Jean whilst others were from the formerly introduced Rebecca Tamsin Ballentyne Mills' soon to be released DANDELION album, such as Family, Amy Sharpe and Princess and the Pea.
With both Patsy and Becky seated on their cajons, which is a Peruvian percussion box and not a euphemism I hasten to add, the duo added some spice to their two guitars with the occasional mandolin, Jew's harp and egg shaker, with an attempt at a well-timed rain sound effect at the end of Water Over the Weir, which just resulted in hysterics from the duo. 'It's just too comedy isn't it? responded Becky.
The duo's surprisingly enchanting version of Gary Numan's Cars is always a much welcomed inclusion in the duo's set, providing one of those moments where a song we often take for granted actually has some appealing substance once stripped away from the heavily orchestrated electronics. Returning to even earlier songs such as Patsy's version of Dylan's One More Cup of Coffee, which was especially recorded for the charity album YOUNGER THAN THAT NOW, and a very early Donovan song Goldwatch Blues, written by Mick Softley.
Concluding with Patsy's jazz-tinged love song If You Ask Me, the duo returned for an encore of Hazel O'Connor's Will You, another hit from the 1980s, leaving a very satisfied audience at the Wheelhouse and to continue their tour.
-Allan Wilkinson, Northern Sky
Stories of Angels and Guitars
There's an overcrowded market in the UK of female singer-songwriter-guitarists, but Patsy Matheson stands out for the quality of her singing and, more importantly, her songwriting. Best known for her work with the all-female quartet Waking the Witch, she has now recorded an intriguing DIY solo set; she co-produced and plays acoustic guitar, mandolin, glockenspiel and xylophone, with occasional subtle percussion and bass. Her best songs are thoughtful, delicate and impressively original, and include Sylvia Jean, a story of love and death in England in the 1950s, along with more intimate, personal pieces. Hotel Rooms is a finely crafted study of love and longing, while the witty but pained Hundred Guitars is the UK folk answer to You're So Vain. Then there's the delicate Under Your Wing, one of several songs that make good use of multi-tracked vocals, and - best of all - If You Ask Me, a gentle swinging lament that deserves to become a folk standard'
Robin Denselow, The Guardian
The UK folk scene is a wonderful mix of old and young - from Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy to Patsy Matheson and James Hibbins - and they are producing a lot of fine music...
There is something of a light-voiced female John Martyn about Patsy Matheson's singing on So The Same , an impressive and original track on her new album Stories of Angels & Guitars . The song is about two lovers whose differences bring them together: "I watch the ocean. You just watch one wave," she sings. Matheson, who has been performing for 20 years and is perhaps best known for her work with the all-female quartet Waking The Witch, co-produced the album which features Hugh Whitaker (Housemartins) on drums and Jon Short on bass. Matheson plays guitar, mandolin, glockenspiel and xylophone and her sensitive lyrics and strong singing just click. Sylvia Jean , a song about the death of an American air force man in the 1950s, and the delicate If You Ask Me are also standout tracks.
Martin Chilton, The Telegraph
Unhurried and warmly recorded, Patsy Matheson's new set of songs elevates her performances to a remarkable level. It takes a confident soul to leave an album as unadorned as this but the simplicity here is fundamental. Those who hunger for the sound of wood, strings and voice will want to dive right in.
But this isn't an empty offering with scant emotion. The fullness of 'If You Ask Me' is surprising given Patsy's only accompaniment is guitar and Jon Short's gently swinging double bass. As the bittersweet autumn stroll of the narrative unfolds the song demonstrates Patsy's ability to create her own stand alone genre. Likewise 'Hotel Room' only require a xylophone and a whisper of percussion to bring the ruminating words to life. Then take everything away but a harmonium for 'Shining Silver' and Patsy's late night wistful voice proves to be the star of this show.
Styles come and go as the words get wiser with '100 guitars' warning us that collecting guitars and girls can be problematic at best. However, what has gone before doesn't hint at the story of 'Sylvia Jean', a tender tragic tale detailing a relationship between a cold war era pilot and a Portsmouth lass. It's epic in the sense of Chris Wood's 'One In A Million' or Kristina Olsen's 'Heart Hill' and concludes these sophisticated studies of the heart on a powerful note.
Album: Stories Of Angels & Guitars
Former member of Waking The Witch, Patsy Matheson, returns from the world of recording with a fabulous album, "Stories Of Angels & Guitars". I mention Waking The Witch in passing not just because of the legacy they passed on through the individual members when they went their own way, but more because there were a lot of people out there that did think of them as angels with guitars.
Patsy writes in a very visual way, she projects the images into your mind, sometimes to the point where they song almost runs like movie. "Sylvia Jean" could almost be the script of a black and white movie from off BBC2. Flyboy meets landlord's daughter and falls in love, takes her to cinema, courts her, returns to Tiger Squadron to learn how to fly Meteors and get's killed in training, a beautiful poignant song that serves as film noir.
The album is recorded simply, for most of the tracks it's just Patsy and her guitar and where she does need other instruments, she plays them herself, though she does allow space for a couple of musicians, Hugh Whitaker and Jon Short, to guest and Phil Snell shares the duties behind the desk.
I'm sometimes wary of an artist doing too many roles on an album, it sometimes interferes with the critical faculties causing an album to get a little self indulgent, no such fears here. Patsy has adopted a pace back approach, allowing the songs and melodies to speak for themselves without the need for adornment.
I wouldn't want to be the subject of "Hundred Guitars" this song has the potential to be Patsy's "You're So Vain". The song revels in the difference between some that has a real passion and absorbs themselves in it with collecting the same items and only using them as decoration, the guitars on the wall, and though not mentioned in the song, the sort of person that keeps highly polished sports cars in the showroom, not being driven on the road.
"Stories Of Angels & Guitars" is not an album to be rushed, give yourself time to listen to it properly so you can get the reward due you. Because it is such a visual album, you need to be able to have the time to sit and take it all in. You can just listen to it, but you won't be getting the best out of it that way.
"Water Is Over The Weir" is going to be highlighted as the single track and well worthy of the task it is too, capturing the essence of the album, whilst having a slightly more radio friendly feel to it. "Stories Of Angels & Guitars" is a great album to welcome the new musical year in.
Patsy Matheson – STORIES OF ANGELS AND GUITARS (Tomorrow Records TRCD. 2)
I plead guilty to taking an inordinately long time to get this review written! I’ve had the album impatiently straddling my priority pile for a few weeks now, but just haven’t been able to get down to it properly. Y’ know what it’s like: being so mad-keen to play it straightaway but at the same time you so know that would almost certainly be the wrong moment! And, having so rated Patsy’s last CD (2008’s A Little Piece Of England), I almost couldn’t face playing this new one in case it don’t turn out to be as good (ha! me of little faith!)… while at the same time, I knew only too well I’d have to choose the right time, one when life just couldn’t be allowed to get in the way and I could savour the music and not rush the experience (the only way, IMHO, to do it justice).
So, finally, the moment of truth comes, and a verdict can be delivered. And wow! OK, I know I shouldn’t have had cause to stress out and fear disappointment. Need I say more? Yeah, I gotta… First, well if ever there was a prime case of “less is more”, then it’s Stories Of Angels And Guitars. This album is an object lesson in how supremely effective just a voice and guitar can be in the right hands and with the right kind of production, and how the most unbelievably minimal degree of added embellishment can then so tellingly enhance the result. This album’s also probably one of the most intimate musical experiences you could imagine, with each song so very lovingly crafted, assembled and executed. Over some 20 years of writing, performing, recording and touring within the UK acoustic scene, whether purely solo or with the justly-acclaimed band Waking The Witch or in consort with Clive Gregson, Patsy has forged her own personal and distinctive style, of which Stories Of Angels And Guitars bears all the trademark features: sensitive, feeling lyrics (of which you can hear every word!); a confident singing voice that (notwithstanding its delicately breathy nature) is capable of such incredible shades of emotion and expression through control of dynamics alone; and a quiet instrumental virtuosity whose strength lies in Patsy’s ability to gauge the optimum impact of every note and phrase, when to pull back and when to strum out. In other words, no gesture is ever wasted, no angle explored without a reason. Much like the auteur approach in film, I often think – and Patsy’s cinematic sixth-sense serves her well on this new batch of songs, which play much like “mind-movies”, whether their subject matter be deeply introspective (the acute desperation and longing of Water Is Over The Weir), reflective (Adoption), or keenly narrative (the panoramic tragedy of the wartime-themed story-song, Sylvia Jean, which closes the record).
The latter catch-all observation arises before I get into any detailed discussion of the songs themselves … well, the opening track, Under Your Wing, which manages to be literally angelic and guitaric (is there such a word?) at the same time, just has to be the most bitingly perfect encapsulation of writer’s block this here writer’s ever come across, supported by some gentle and soaringly poignant harmonies that are (probably literally) heavenly – and tantalisingly, place themselves just out of reach (exactly like that ultra-elusive next-word!). The following song, No Angel, casts the concept of the angel in a different role, this time in the context of a relationship. An eye for the intrinsic truth of a situation is a hallmark of Patsy’s songwriting, and she really gets to the heart of relationship issues through simple yet graphically visual portrayal of scenes from within that situation. Framing which, of course, are almost casually precise musical settings that make their point by evoking subtle shades of meaning within the lyrics whose interpretation is achieved by means of mere brushstrokes (literal and metaphorical). To which end Patsy augments her own guitar with occasional mandolin ripples and tuned percussion (xylophone, glockenspiel) and some very selective (and intensely skilful) contributions from Jon Short (double bass) and Hugh Whitaker (drums). As on Adoption, where some gorgeous yet unsettling vocal harmonies give a further dark twist to the air of melancholy resignation in the lyric. And the jazzy If You Ask Me, a classy, if deceptively relaxed, tour through the seasons expressed in terms of desire and fancy. Perhaps the disc’s standout performance comes on So The Same, which expresses the core contradictions of a meaningful relationship, telling it like it is through the dramatic device of harmonised backing vocals that carry the internal dialogue. The very next song’s a highlight too: the enigmatic Shining Silver, in barely two minutes, marks itself out as a masterpiece of economy, with nothing but a bare harmonium drone as accompaniment to its keening melody and mysterious, haunted subliminal sotto-voce whisperings. But don’t be misled – for while in purely vocal terms Patsy herself may sometimes sound distinctly angelic, even demure, just you take heed of her lyrics, for there she’ll eagerly pull her boots on and deliver the appropriate kick where needed – Hundred Guitars, for instance, takes no prisoners in drawing its specific barbed parallels.
OK, I’ve said enough – this is a fabulous and tremendously involving record; but I must emphasise, it so needs your time and attention, you can’t just let it wash over you and expect to be bowled over by an avalanche of sound. Phil Snell’s production is exemplary, genuinely and wholly simpatico, and has served Patsy’s unique vision ideally, while the booklet photography by Ani McNeice is not only beautiful but utterly complementary, being thematically appropriate and evocative in all the right nuances. Stories Of Angels And Guitars is a stunningly fine album, which marks Patsy’s return to recording both as an artistic triumph and a definite contender for the 2012 best-lists (already!).
David Kidman, NetRhythms
Stories of Angels & Guitars - Patsy Matheson (Tomorrow Records TRCD2)
THREE years on from her previous solo offering, the critically acclaimed 'A Little Piece of England', West Yorkshire-based singer-songwriter Patsy Matheson returns with a new album which raises the bar higher still.
Building on the skills she has acquired over the years, both as a solo artist and member of Leeds indie folk band Waking The Witch, Patsy Matheson has produced a sensual, intimate and haunting album containing 10 superbly-crafted songs of love, longing and all the emotions in between.
Opening track 'Under Your Wing' talks of struggling to find the right words. Thankfully, that is not a problem for Patsy as every song is laced with the intricate poetry for which she has become renowned. Blended with her warm, and often fragile, vocals and heart-rending guitar/mandolin work, this album a treat from start to finish.
Matheson intended to play and sing all the parts herself and while she provides the striking harmonies and various percussion instruments, she relented enough to bring on board former Housemartins drummer Hugh Whitaker and double bass maestro Jon Short. The result is a laid back delight that demands to be listened too, preferably with the lights turned low and a decent bottle of wine to hand.
Highlights drift effortlessly from the speakers from the jazz-infused 'If You Ask Me' through the jaunty 'Hundred Guitars' - which would not sound out of place on a Paul Simon album - to the sublime and moving 'Sylvia Jean' , a love song set against the backdrop of the Cold War.
This is a mature work from a singer-songwriter who strives for perfection and delivers it. Simply gorgeous.
Patsy Matheson will be touring with former bandmate Becky Mills early next year. They will be performing songs from their solo work and a selection of Waking the Witch favourites. The tour reaches Hebden Bridge Trades Club on Sunday, March 25.
'Stories of Angels & Guitars will be released on January 16 but can be pre-ordered on Amazon.
- John Metcalfe, Halifax Courier
Stories of Angels & Guitars – Patsy Matheson
Two years ago Patsy Matheson had a vision of an album, one with no deadline, no pre-planned list of songs, basically a blank canvass to produce something unique. The result is “Stories of Angels & Guitars” which enables Patsy to paint evocative and tender textured pictures with such descriptive lyrics. The angelic harmonic feel is evident from the first track “Under Your Wing” with harmonies which carry you along, and yet still allows Patsy’s impeccable vocals to shine through, before gently taking you onto a more laid-back lounge-feel track in “No Angel”. Love and emotions feature heavily throughout the album with every emotional pore being exposed throughout “Adoption” and “If You Ask Me” (which is my own personal favourite track of the album) and the feeling of missing in “Hotel Rooms”. The feel of the first track returns with the perfectly balanced vocals on “So The Same”, before a slightly faster pace is provided with “Hundred Guitars”, which like the following track, “Shining Silver”, complete with a haunting beginning is classic Patsy Matheson. The combination of mandolin intertwined with Patsy’s wonderful vocals provide a very special experience with “Water is over the Weir” before an incredible finale with “Sylvia Jean” which is a moving history and love story rolled into one and provides a fitting end to a very special album. From start to finish Patsy fourth solo album is like an expensive claret, smooth, rich and velvety which takes the listener into a warm glow of musical heaven.
Paul Abraham, www.leedsmusicpromotions.com
Stories of Angels and Guitars
Patsy Matheson will probably be best known to Rock Society readers as a member of much-missed four- piece Waking the Witch (she’s the husky voiced one!). In recent years she has released a fine solo album “A Little Piece of England” and toured extensively with Clive Gregson and Becky Mills.
“Stories of Angels and Guitars” is her fourth solo release, and finds her pretty much playing every instrument herself, except double bass and drums. The result is a gorgeously intimate late night album, full of lush harmonies and a wonderful stillness built of the sparse instrumentation and Patsy’s trademark husky fragility. Within the album there is still room for plenty of variation, with traditional singer-songwriter fare rubbing shoulders with the bluesy “No Angel” and the jazzy “If You Asked me”.
Meanwhile, her lyrics remain deliciously romantic yet tinged with the experience of a life lived. Overall, this is marvellously delicate stuff, and while it would be easy to imagine some of these songs working with more expansive arrangements, they are none the worse for this stripped back approach. Heartily recommended.
Stephen Lambe, CRS Magazine
PATSY MATHESON ‘Stories Of Angels & Guitars’ (2012)
Former Waking the Witch member Patsy Matheson returns with her new album, her first in nearly four years. Mind you not that she hasn’t been busy touring relentlessly including some very well received gigs with folk legend Clive Gregson. Patsy plays most instruments on here (including the xylophone!) with Jon Short on double bass and former Housemartin Hugh Whitaker on drums.
This is an album for concentration and enjoyment – with a wine/beer (or tea in my case) in hand along with the lyrics sheet. The vocals are simply stunning, from ‘Under Your Wing’ with a heavenly high vocal part midway through to ‘So The Same’, where Patsy joins her herself on harmonies, something her former band Waking the Witch excelled at. Lovely mandolin solo on ‘Water Is Over The Weir’ and again another song you can lose yourself in. The moving ‘Sylvia Jean’ closes the album, a tale of two young lovers whose romance is cut short after the young man dies in a flying accident.
What makes this album special? The smoothly melodious voice draws you into a song; add a little acoustic guitar and what more can you want? We all have our musicians and singers we like to rave about and I would urge lovers of singer/songwriter and folk music to buy this album.
Stories of Angels & Guitars, TRCD2
The new album from former Waking the Witch member Patsy Matheson, has taken the music world by storm, not yet released but already greatly applauded by industry insiders.
All 10 songs on the album have been written by Patsy who has also played a number of the instruments on the tracks. Hugh Whitaker (Housemartins) contributed by playing drums and shaker, and Jon Short (Deep Sky Divers) played double bass. It has taken 2 years for the album to have been lovingly put together and Patsy is pleased with the outcome. Rightly so.
Stories of Angels and Guitars is full of heart wrenching lyrics and melodies. A haunting album with an exquisite simple construction of each track. The words are powerful enough without having to have a huge amount of backing music. All kept very simply acoustic, and you can just lie back and enjoy, and let the words wash over you. A couple of the numbers would not be out of place in a Jazz or Blues café. The first track Under Your Wing is already a live favourite in UK acoustic clubs.
All the songs have their own story and tell tales of loneliness, anguish, perished loved ones, love lost, bleeding hearts, a tragic RAF Pilot and of course Angels.
Jean Camp, Folking.com
This atmospheric follow up to A LITTLE PIECE OF ENGLAND (2008) is scheduled to be released to coincide with Patsy Matheson's forthcoming 2012 tour, teaming up once again with former Waking the Witch band mate Becky Mills. STORIES OF ANGELS AND GUITARS is a mellow affair throughout, with delicate vocals and arrangements to match, each song crafted in Patsy's own distinctive style. The angels are present from the start with the alluring Under Your Wing, a sort of writer's block song; the inquisitive search for the place from which inspiration comes. There's moments of melancholy in some of the self-probing songs such as Adoption and moments of fragility in So the Same, which has one of the most poetically fractured vocal performances on this or any other Patsy Matheson album.
Whether singing about angels, love, longing or vintage guitars, Patsy's brittle voice always manages to keep itself harnessed by a confident strength and a belief in every word she sings. That strength is no better captured than in one of her most compelling story songs, the utterly beautiful Sylvia Jean.
Co-produced and engineered by Phil Snell with contributions from Hugh Whitaker (The Housemartins) on drums and Jon Short (Deep Sky Divers) on double bass, STORIES OF ANGELS AND GUITARS sees Patsy taking care of the rest, playing not only guitar but also mandolin and various percussion, tuned or otherwise. An album to make your Sunday afternoons even more reposeful. Go on, put your feet up.
Stories Of Angels & Guitars
Tomorrow Records TRCD2
Patsy, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and ex-member of Waking The Witch, has scored a mighty hit with this lovely album. She says that, after 20 years of making records, she wanted Stories to be different: “I’d originally intended to do something I’d never done before – start off with no deadline, without a pre-planned list of songs, play all the instruments and sing all the harmonies myself, only go to the studio once a week… in other words, take off the pressure.”
This no-pressure collection of ten soul-searching, starkly beautiful songs has done wonders for Patsy. She’s accompanied by ex-Housemartins member Hugh Whitaker on drums, Jon Short of the Deep Sky Divers on double bass and producer/engineer Phil Snell on harmonium, but she uses the session musicians very sparingly; Patsy goes into the studio by herself (Water Is Over The Weir, Sylvia Jean) or with one solitary man to augment her. The exception is Adoption, where she uses Hugh and Jon – Shock horror! Songwriter goes into studio with TWO musicians! – but all the time, the fine songs shine through with minimal effect.
Patsy and ex-Waking The Witch colleague Becky Mills are gigging all over England and Scotland, but Wales has yet to find out just what the nation is missing. Come on, promoters and organisers – what are you waiting for?
Mick Tems, www.folkwales
Patsy Matheson – Stories Of Angels & Guitars (Tomorrow Records)
Waking The Witch co-founder Patsy Matheson releases her fourth solo album of self-penned material. Stories Of Angels & Guitars is an understated, late-night affair filled with carefully crafted songs of the heart. While these are big on emotion, the instrumentation – guitar/mandolin, glockenspiel/xylophone (Patsy), double bass (Jon Short), Hugh Whitaker (drums; The Housemartins) and harmonium (Phil Snell) – is subtle and allows the stories to unfold. She makes effective use of multi-tracking to layer her delicate vocals on tracks like Under Your Wing and So The Same but it’s her smoky, sensual delivery of the blues on No Angel, a laid-back jazzy interpretation of If You Ask Me and her moving album closer Sylvia Jean that reveal the breadth of Patsy’s talent as a songwriter and a performer.
Patsy: “After 20 years of making records, I wanted Stories to be different. I’d originally intended to do something I’d never done before – start off with no deadline, without a pre-planned list of songs, play all the instruments and sing all the harmonies myself and only go to the studio once a week… in other words, take off the pressure.”
Two years down the line and this formula – with the addition of some guest instrumentalists – has resulted in an imaginative and heart-warming album of songs.
Sofi Mogensen, Proper Distribution
Stories of Angels & Guitars
This is Patsy’s fourth solo album since leaving Waking The Witch and it is a triumph of songwriting, investigation into the human psyche on the topic of love, and its pure beauty as a piece of art. The CD is ten tracks of self-penned music, with Patsy providing vocal, layered vocal harmonies and all the instruments apart from drums provided by Hugh Whitaker, double bass by Jon Short and Harmonium by Phil Snell.
Her songwriting has both fire and passion and is imbued by vision of nature, her vocal echoes that nature, it is as at times as fresh as the lime green buds of spring. It is as warm as a summer breeze, as colourful as autumn but can also be as pain ridden as the cold chill of a lazy winter wind.
The opening track ‘Under Your Wing’ is a Celtic folk feeling ballad. Patsy’s vocal on this is melodic with great intonation and sustain. You get a feel of being deep rooted in Mother Earth, a mother rocking her child singing this song as a lullaby. ‘No Angel’ follows an eclectic ballad of Folk, Blues, Jazz and a hint of Rock. Using the deeper aspect of her vocal and the addition of heart thumping double bass, Patsy sings this passionate song of love. A jazzy Mandolin serenades in the instrumental, added in the harmonious layered vocal and a catchy chorus, this all adds up to a very impressive number.
In the song, ‘If You Ask Me’ Patsy uses velvet alto tones to sing this jazzy love ballad. The seasons are used to display the colours of love and this is a sexy, simple, but deep song. A ‘Hundred Guitars’ is another cracker of a song, which brings a knowing smile to the face, as she sings of the vanity of men who collect guitars and girls.
The CD ends with ‘Silver Jean’, as Patsy relates the tale of a US airman stationed in Plymouth in the Cold War Days of 1952 and his relationship with a landlord’s daughter, his orders to go on a new mission and the tragic end of that sortie. This is just Patsy and guitar and a tale of tragedy but it also beautifully romantic and poetic and could be the story of any airman past or present. This is an exceptionally likable CD and one that will be a favourite in the collection of those who love music, in all its forms, for many years to come.
Carol Borrington, Blues Roots and the Shoots
Sunday February 26 - Patsy Matheson and Becky Mills
Not a Waking The Witch reunion as such, but this does reteam two members from Yorkshire’s much missed female acoustic folk quartet, both of whom have new solo albums coinciding with the tour. Sadly, Mills’ Dandelion wasn’t available for preview, though with two sets to the show, she’ll have plenty of chance to include a couple of numbers as tasters, but Matheson’s Stories Of Angels & Guitars (Tomorrow) is certainly enough to convincing even non WTW admirers to make a date for the evening.
With a mix of folk, jazz and blues colours, occasionally hinting at John Martyn (So The Same, If You Ask Me), it’s a relaxed, late evening affair that makes the most of very little instrumentation (the trad folk blues sound of Shining Silver is just voice and harmonium) as she sings of love, loss and, on the wistful opening Under Your Wing, the painful ache of writer’s block.
There’s no big flourishes here, either musically or lyrically, but Matheson ably demonstrates how less can be so much more on such numbers as the introspective Adoption, Water Is Over The Weir’s acute sense of longing, the loneliness that hangs like a cloak over Hotel Room and Sylvia Jean, a short story in song that relates the tragic love story of a girl from Portsmouth and an American pilot in the 1950s.
There’ll be a fair few of the songs in the set list with the jaunty Hundred Guitars, a sort of folk You’re So Vain about a collector of girls and guitars, as well as There For Me, Jenny Thornton and Boys From The Abbatoir from their band days and even interesting cover versions of Gary Numan’s Cars, Hazel O’Connor’s Will You and Dylan’s One More Cup Of Coffee For The Road. The Witch may be sleeping but the magic remains. 8pm. £8.
Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath - Mike Davies www.mybrum.co.uk
Stories of Angels & Guitars, Patsy Matheson THE KAJE, March 2012-03-23
Patsy Matheson has come along in the 20 years since she won her first songwriting competition in 1991. With Maddy Prior and Clive Gregson highlighting her compositional credibility, Matheson focused her energies and by 1996 was ready to unleash her debut solo effort, the accomplished and critically acclaimed “With My Boots On”. Soon enough Matheson was winning over audiences at Glastonbury, but in 2003 she made the decision to form the vocal harmony group Waking The Witch and Matheson’s solo aspirations were sidelined in favour of a communal goal.
With Waking The Witch splitting in 2008, Matheson rediscovered her solo ambitions and swiftly released the sensational “Little Piece Of England”, which resulted in a constant demand for touring and allowed little time for Matheson to focus on a follow up record. However with a loyal fanbase willing to wait, the reward has finally arrived in the shape of “Stories of Angels & Guitars”. So, was the wait worth the while?
Yes is the simple answer. With a relaxed open feel, Matheson proves over the ten tracks that she is without question far more than just one of the folk world’s finest songwriters. A skilled vocalist, her relaxed style oozes crossover appeal without ever demanding it.
Though hard to pinpoint any weakness, it is easy to highlight the album’s two strongest moments. The hauntingly soothing “Hotel Rooms” induces chilblains, while the delicate opener “Under Your Wing” is beyond breathtaking.
Rating: 4/5 - Reviewer: Jeremy Williams
‘It’s late at night and you should probably go home, but then this girl walks into the bar, pulls a guitar off her back, starts to play and blows your head off. This at least is the mood conjured by a smoky, atmospheric and evocative collection of songs on which Patsy pours out her heart and soul in an unusually intimate and affecting way.
With heavy overtones of jazz and blues in minimalist arrangements, thickened by Hugh Whitaker’s sympathetic percussion , Jon Short’s double bass, and – on the lovely Shining Silver, Phil Snell’s harmonium, she deals in properly rounded songs emitting old fashioned values with lyrical clout and honest emotions.
Absorbing tales of lost love and desolation hover in the cinematic images she painstakingly crafts into the sensuous fragility of 100 Guitars, Water is over the Weir, Hotel Rooms and Sylvia Jean. As she switches between acoustic guitar, mandolin and xylophone, a potent spell is cast’
Colin Irwin, Properganda
A Little Piece of England
Mention the name Patsy Matheson and a warm musical glow envelops the discerning music lover. As part of the driving force of the all-female band, Waking the Witch, Patsy received critical acclaim throughout the music-industry, however it is as a solo performer that Patsy's song-writing talent and pure voice comes to the fore.
The release of her latest album "A Little Piece of England " will enhance her reputation even further, as she takes the listener through the full range of human strengths, weaknesses, feelings and emotions.
Patsy has a vocal range that can melt the heart through "Sunday Morning Song" and "Little Piece of England", convey the fragility of hope and dashed ambitions in "Treading Water Town" and "This New Song", inspire social, political and economic questioning on "Play the Game" and "Precious Little Soldier", be stinging on "Lamb to Slaughter", narrate through the story of a travelling female musician on "Ulverston Gypsy" and finally romantic via "Row Down to Wroxham". Whatever your mood, there will be a song on this album which will ignite a nerve or emotion as only a very special talent can achieve.
This is not only a musically glorious album; it is also a statement that Patsy Matheson, the solo performer, is back and better than ever!
Music Editor - www.womensradio.com
It’s only a few months since the brilliant female quartet Waking The Witch “quit while they were ahead”, but founder member Patsy has wasted no time in getting back to making music, returning to the studio with a bunch of great new songs that she’s assembled to form her first solo release since 1997’s Breathe Me. Her brace of late-90s albums was always going to be a hard act to follow (I still play tracks from them regularly), and more especially now after the heightened expectations of WTW, but A Little Piece Of England is an admirably assured offering that both consolidates Patsy’s proven songwriting talent and takes her into an arguably more considered musical direction – albeit still rooted in the contemporary-acoustic-with-folk-sensibilities mode.
The actual title of this new CD might however perhaps mislead some of the more folky-inclined listeners into expecting either a fairly hard-hitting commentary on the state of our nation (à-la-Maggie Holland or Steve Knightley) or a more idyllic celebration of pastoral pursuits. All of which would be too simplistic an expectation, for although several of Patsy’s songs undeniably incorporate an element of protest, they also form quite personal accounts of, or observations on, universal relationship conundrums and romantic dilemmas. These are self-evidently related or discussed from the angle of direct experience (rather than just being rehashed second-hand), but there’s never any sense of intrusion on Patsy’s privacy, instead more a feeling of somehow being included within the difficult thought processes and the situation, its history and its consequences
As for the “little piece of England” in Patsy’s songs: well, although it occurs in a literal sense through her referencing of specific locations for three of the songs here, Englishness is probably more of an undercurrent, in the sense that the imagery used, together with the often quite wistful tone and acute sense of place, are elements that seem quintessentially English in songwriting terms. Patsy cements our involvement with her songs through her ability to recount – with an enviable economy of expression – experiences and feelings common to all of us, which may have formed the basis of countless songs over time, but which are rarely voiced with such percipient sensitivity and simple, painful (yet in some ways almost detached) honesty as here. The consciously stripped-down musical settings employed reflect the intimacy of the lyrics too: Patsy’s solo (mostly acoustic, sometimes electric) guitar is sparingly and tellingly augmented by that of her producer Sam Bartholomew, with only a very occasional accordion or percussion part to mildly thicken the texture. All of which produces a gently intricate sound-world which is (perhaps surprisingly) very direct in its impact.
There are some really imaginative touches too, including an eerie electronic treatment to the electric guitar part on This New Song, excitingly reflecting the unearthly, even scary synergy of personal connection between two musicians that’s expressed through the lyric – you feel the pull of the magnet as you’re drawn in. The character of Patsy’s own singing ranges entirely believably, from world-weary and knowing – as in Addiction To Love – to emotionally vulnerable – as in Precious Little Soldier. The writing of the latter, a deceptively simple anti-war song, one of the album’s standout tracks, was inspired by Martyn Joseph’s impressive gift for combining political issues with personal feelings in song; it features some delicate chiming electric guitar figures counterpointing both Patsy’s own delivery and Gina Dootson’s precise and heartfelt backing vocal, and shares a certain kinship with Dylan’s Visions Of Johanna in terms of structure. While each of the album’s ten songs is distinctive, they’re also unified by virtue of Patsy’s writing having a keen sense of structure and good use of hooks both musical and lyrical (note the latter especially in Play The Game, Precious Little Soldier, Ulverston Gypsy and Sunday Morning Song – it’s intelligence rather than contrivance that’s on display here).
Patsy’s trademark guitar figure provides the signature hesitant, ominous riff for Lamb To Slaughter, a powerful commentary on the paparazzi culture (with some seriously tasty, edgy electric guitar from Sam setting off Patsy’s unsettling, bluesy vocal). At the other end of the scale, the full-toned modal-folk-guitar backdrop for Ulverston Gypsy complements both the song’s nods to the tradition of Gypsy Davey and the inevitable resonances of contemporary parables by Bob Pegg (The Gypsy) and Richard Thompson (Bee’s Wing). Whereas the desperation and comparative monotony of the melody of Treading Water Town mirrors the rut which the song’s creative protagonist is stuck in.
But there are so many incidental delights in these songs, and I’ll leave you to discover the rest yourself (I’m still finding extra nuances after several plays). I need additionally to praise the clear-toned recording, and the artful (in both senses!) presentation of the whole package, with its provision of full lyrics and credits and its attractive nu-folk design and graphics that really complement the music within – another persuasive selling-point. Well done Pats – so here’s to the next project!
David Kidman - www.netrhythms.co.uk
Ok let's cut to the chase here! When your successful band comes to what, many people felt, was a very premature end you would be faced with some difficult choices. You could try and rebuild a new band from scratch and carry on the name. Another option is to sit and sulk. Or you can head straight back into the studio and begin work on a new solo album, your first since 1997. Patsy decided that the latter was the best option for her and this delightful album is the result.
Eschewing the possibly obvious choice of using multi-tracking on vocals that would inevitably draw comparisons with the beautiful trademark four-part harmonies associated with Waking The Witch, Patsy has opted for simplicity. I want to say that the results work really well. The sparse 'Addicted To You' is the opening cut telling the tail of a doomed relationship when the lady in question gives in to the constant lies and promises of her lover while she still craves the physical desires burning inside.
'Treading Water Town' is a perfect blend of a bleak song and plaintive vocals. Constantly knocked back by the music industry, destroyed by yet more broken promises, the poor lass in the song is heading off to commit suicide where, if successful, she will attain a brief few lines of fame. You might get the idea that this is a depressing album and that is not the case. True some tracks are definitely on the sad side however the lovely 'Sunday Morning Song', for example, counter balances the mood. 'Ulverston Gypsy' is pure, and quintessentially, English Folk weaving aural pictures of a life of a musical traveller.
Painting by song is a good way to sum up this album. We are allowed a wee peak into the lives of the characters that populate this descriptive collection of songs. Mourn by all means the past but celebrate a new beginning for Patsy.
Graeme Scott - Classic VRN Radio
LEEDS-based singer-songwriter Patsy Matheson has pulled off one of music’s most difficult tricks – and with some aplomb. That is, to step outside the framework of a well-known, and well-loved band and produce a solo recording that, while not denying what has gone before, marks a significant leap forward in terms of style and maturity.
Matheson has given her distinctive, often plaintive, guitar sound and honeycomb vocals over to a collection of 10 songs that are close enough to identify with her previous work as one quarter of the now defunct indie/folk/acoustic darlings Waking The Witch, yet different enough to single her out as a talent demanding to be listened to in her own right. She has also played a blinder in surrounding herself with sympathetic cohorts who bring added clout and delicacy to the mix from multi-talented musician and producer Sam Bartholomew, former Chumbawamba percussionist Harry Hamer and vocalist Gina Dootson, all of whom compliment Matheson’s style perfectly.
This is stripped back, close up and personal material of the highest order and showcases perfectly what Matheson is all about.
She had released two solo albums before her critically-acclaimed work with the Witches and this latest offering shows just how much her songwriting skills have matured over time.
A Little Piece of England, her first solo work for 11 years, ranges from the all out folk vibe of Ulverston Gypsy to the haunting anti-war ballad Precious Little Soldier, the reflection on soiled celebrity, Lamb to Slaughter as well as the perfect summer Sunday afternoon memory jerker Row Down To Wroxham. It is a potent mix and all the better for dispensing with any flashy production tricks. Songs have to stand on their own merits and, without exception, they do just that.
Matheson has worked hard to build on the promise she showed back in 1991 when Maddy Prior and Clive Gregson lauded her songwriting skills in a music competition. And, on this evidence, it is clear that Matheson’s will to succeed and to entertain has continued to carry her on a journey that will surely yield more riches along the way.
Patsy Matheson will be bringing her Little Piece of England tour to the Square Chapel, Halifax on Saturday, January 10, 2009.
Halifax Courier Sept 08
It seemed a great shame when Waking The Witch split up earlier this year, so much talent would be sorely missed. However, it hasn't taken long for solo projects to appear from the members of the band. Patsy Matheson's ' A Little Piece Of England' is the first to hit the shelves, the songs all pay homage to different aspects of England, from the Lakeland Fells to the waterways of the Norfolk Broads. fans of Waking the Witch will not be dissapointed, neither will those who wanted to hear more from the talented Patsy.
Patsy has a warmly magnetic personality that captures an audience, this is reflected in her songwriting that varies from soft ballads to edgier material dealing with current issues such as the war in Iraq. The presentation and production is stripped back and bare, it realy is a solo album, no multi layered vocals or studio tweaks to hide behind, even her trademark mandolin is sparsely utilised. In short it's a bold brave move away from what has gone before, she has the skill to carry it off wonderfully.
The album is released early October on Witch Records and accompanied by the album's multi-instrumental producer Sam Bartholomew, Patsy will kick off her tour at Cambridge Folk Club on Oct 3, followed by gigs in Manningtree, Essex; Budleigh Salterton, Devon; Torquay, Cornwall; Lowdham, near Nottingham; Rotherham, Hartlepool, Halifax, York and Leeds in her home county of Yorkshire; Birmingham; Battle in Sussex, Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire, Ulverston, Cumbria and London's famous Half Moon, Putney.
Rising pheonix like from the ashes of the much missed Waking The Witch, Patsy Matheson returns with her first solo album in way too long. "A Little Piece Of England" is a hugely powerful album that absorbs love, life and politics. "Precious Little Soldier" humanises the tragedy of war, the impact on family, especially if you're not married when your partner dies. The simplicity of delivery, normally vocal and guitar, help to emphasise the bleakness contained in the album, but it's not an album of despair, more an album of strength of spirit, from first pen touch to last note.
The only good thing to come out of the demise of the excellent female four piece Waking The Witch will be the band members solo ventures and Patsy Matheson releases this, her latest album. As you'd expect from solo outing this has a much stripped down sound being all acoustic (bar a couple of songs on which Patsy makes her electric guitar debut!). In fact a quick mention to the guitar playing on here which is top notch - some lovely playing on songs like 'Play The Game' and 'Addicted To You'. The sound is perfectly clear and crisp thanks to a sterling production job by Sam Barthololmew (who also adds guitar throughout the album).
Picking out highlights is hard as all the songs on here are strong both musically and lyrically. The anti-war song 'Precious Little Soldier' features Gina Dootson on backing vocals, adding greatly to the song and its sound. 'Ulveston Gypsy' is one of those songs that tell a story whilst linking it in into real places and/or events - a great song and one made for a live setting. 'Lamb To The Slaughter' takes a shot at the paparazzi and the way the media can destroy a celebrity's life - the song is loosely based on Amy Winehouse. 'Addiction to You' is one of those relationship songs that Patsy does so well, either solo or in Waking The Witch.
A very talented singer/songwriter/musician ably supported on here by Sam Barthololmew and although I do miss Waking The Witch this solo album more than makes up for it! An album with wide appeal not only with Waking The Witch and folk fans but anyone who enjoys the folk/acoustic songs of Mostly Autumn and Karnataka.
If you believe the journalistic comparison that Waking the Witch was a
Brit-folk version of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - comprising four
harmonising singer-songwriter guitarists - then Patsy Matheson must surely
have been cast in the role as the Neil Young figure. With the premature
break-up of the band, her first solo album in over a decade gives her the
opportunity to express herself more extensively than she might have had in a
"A Little Piece of England" might suggest that this is Matheson's "State of the Nation" album, but while some songs such as the anti-war "Precious Little Soldier" or the bluesy "Lamb to Slaughter", with its protagonist (Amy/Britney) as the sacrificial prey of the paparazzi, might have a topical edge, the record acts as an album of snapshots of the personal and the universal in England in the early 21st century. It makes no pretence of presenting a balanced overview: it simply gives an honest account of what was important at a particular time and a place in the writer's life. On these terms it gives "a piece of England" which encompasses gypsy travellers, dead-end towns and reveries over summer boating trips, as well as the more contemporary tales mentioned previously.
After the heavy production of the last Waking the Witch album Patsy has very wisely decided to musically strip down to basics here and most of the album essentially features her on acoustic guitar and vocals with support from producer Sam Bartholemew. Percussion and backing vocals appear at times but the sound is largely left uncluttered with the warm and intimate acoustic guitars and vocals to the fore.
Overall, "A Little Piece of England" is a very classy album with just that little touch of grit in it to give it some edge.
Steve Wilcock, Triste magazine
'this one is great - it's a lovely CD - I am most impressed' - Genevieve Tudor, Sunday Folk Show, BBC Radio Shropshire
The quiet joys of sisterhood
Late of the now defunct Waking the Witch, Patsy Matheson's first solo album for a decade is a quiet joy and a real grower. Sonically it falls slap bang into the rather overcrowded "female acoustic singer-songwriter" slot but lyrically it's head and shoulders above it. Opening with "Addiction To You", a pared-down haiku of a song that encapsulates the "I know I shouldn't but I can't help it" feeling so common to so many fractured relationships, it takes in cutting comment on contemporary Britain ("Play the Game" and "Treading Water Town") and Iraq ("Precious Little Soldier") as well as the perhaps more expected relationship songs ("This New Song" and "Sunday Morning Song"). The latter is particular interesting as it was apparently conceived as a positive celebration of family life, yet contains the couplet "And I think of the boy that I married/And I look at the man in my bed"), which could at the very least be read in an entirely different way.
The only accompaniment to Matheson's wistful, often elegiac vocals are a muted acoustic guitar and occasional hints of percussion and this all comes together best .. Down To Wroxham", a perfect pastoral encapsulation of a languid summer's day with a lover. Overall this is a very English album, littered with geographic and cultural references, most notably on contemporary folk tale "Ulverston Gypsy", and Matheson brings it all back home on the final title track, both love letter and statement of personal place. All in all, a triumph.
Jeremy Searle, www.americana-uk.com
Having been a cornerstone of cult all-female quartet Waking the Witch for 5 years, Patsy Matheson certainly knows her way around the British folk circuit. With her warm, generous voice and a lyrical complexity that has made great strides since her earlier career (pre-Waking The Witch) as a solo artist, Matheson has used her time in the band to hone her love for rich melodic folk and 'A Little Piece of England' is the first fruits of her labour.
An intentionally subtle and intimate affair, this record finds Matheson freed from the shackles of female-only harmonies and (rather than opting to multi-track her own vocals) calling on the services of Sam Bartholomew to add some strong male textures. The results are a delightful contrast to Matheson's work with Waking The Witch.
As you'd expect from such a practised songwriter there are eight accomplished cuts of UK acoustica on this record. Yet it's the lyrics and stories, which sit at the heart of 'A Little Piece of England', that remain the album's calling card. From strong and intelligent protest songs (aimed at Brown's dysfunctional government) through vibrant tales of freewheeling gypsy girls and love letters to her Yorkshire homelands, this record sparkles with the wit and perspective of a remarkably erudite singer/songwriter.
And it's the latter - when Matheson settles down to talk through personal snapshots of England - that remain with you long after the record has finished. On the album closer 'Row Down to Wroxham' Matheson tells a story of 1920's Norfolk life that is hugely evocative and undeniably touching. It's a fitting climax to a fine record that adds further evidence to support Matheson's position as one of the UK 's great contemporary female folk musicians.
A little piece of England she may be, but she should be treasured in whatever capacity she chooses to release her music.
'A Little Piece Of England' is available now through Witch Records
Stephen Jasper (www.freshdeermeat.com)
Leeds based acoustic quartet Waking the Witch having quit while they were ahead, Matheson has slipped back into solo mode, making a swift return to the frontline with new album A Little Piece of England (Witch). Still rooted in melancholic folk-rock tinged with the blues while there's an electronic background thrumming to the trad feel of the connection-themed This New Song, there's been no major sea-change since the group's farewell album The Boys From The Abattoir. The harmonies may be missed, there'll be no complaint about the power and passion of Matheson's vocals or, indeed, her guitar work.
The new songs come with plenty of bite too. Precious Little Soldier, the anti-war story of an unwed war widow and her child with his toy gun, and the Amy Winehouse inspired paparazzi blues Lamb To The Slaughter both burn with the political and personal, while a fiery Play the Game keeps its tit for tat imagery nicely ambiguous.
There's darkling romanticism with Addiction To You, heart's yearning for the title track, and tenderness on Sunday Morning Song while Row Down to Wroxham is dreamy reverie and Ulverston Gypsy a tale of a female musician's life (and loves) on the road. Perhaps the best moment though is the aching weariness of Treading Water Town , a song of stagnation and frustration played on fingerpicked and finger-tapped guitar destined to become a live highlight.
She'll likely be catching up on her previous solo albums in the set list too, but hopefully she'll also find room to conjure up a couple of Witch memories too, after all songs like Rock n Roll and Jenny Thornton & The Boys From The Abattoir are too precious to consign to history.
Mike Davies, (Birmingham 101)
Patsy Matheson - A Little Piece Of England (Witch)
A founding member and one quarter of the award winning, all-female acoustic group, Waking the Witch, Patsy Matheson has had a busy decade touring and recording with one of the outstanding groups on the British folk circuit. In fact, A Little Piece Of England is her first solo album since 1996's With My Boots On, and it's a winning return, and one that nestles comfortably with the current crop of female singer-songwriters. Her style is less overtly 'folky' than one might expect, though lyrically, she focuses on a number of issues that effect modern life, surely a prerequisite of any contemporary folk writer and performer. "Precious Little Soldier" touches on the Iraq war and " Treading Water Town " and "Play The Game" speak for themselves. Of course, relationships, in all their many aspects, are also explored, though without too much in the way of cliché, and all handsomely delivered with Matheson's pensive voice and gentle guitar.
Rob F, Leicester Bangs Dec 2008