Its not often we do a review of new music here. But after seeing Charlie Harper perform at an intimate “unplugged” session recently where he played some of the songs of this album, I wanted to hear the rest. I didn’t see the album at the gig, but managed to grab a copy a few days later – thank you!
Charlie Harper is a British singer and songwriter. He is best known as the lead singer from the punk band U.K. Subs. In 1980 his solo single release “Barmy London Army” spent one week at #68 in the UK Singles Chart. He has also recorded many others and recently featured a guest slot on The Ramonas latest album First World Problems. As well as singing he also plays the harmonica and bass, he played rhythm guitar on the UK Subs album Diminished Responsibility. He still performs regularly across the UK, Europe and some of the larger festivals with the UK SUBS, and will slot in his “one man show” when he can.
Little Black Crow:
Charlie’s brand new solo album – his second solo outing, an incredible 36 years after his solo debut ‘Stolen Property’ in 1982! Is a cracker. Its different to what you might expect from Mr Harper, but I have to say – I enjoyed it! When I spoke to Charlie he informed me that some of these songs were very old, some going back a couple of centuries!
The Fox, a terrific opener and set the tone for the CD. Charlie takes us back to the 15th century for this. Some fabulous farmyard effects as the Fox unleashes havoc! Some great vocals on this, and no mistaking it’s Charlie Harper, with guitar and fiddle playing. Its a traditional song that Charlie has arranged. If this don’t get yer foot tappin – nothing will!
The next track started, and I thought a cuckoo was in the tree in the garden – nope, its the track opening for The Cuckoo! Charlie unleashes his harmonica playing for this song and its fabulous. A terrific rousing version.
Drunken Sailor, this one is that sea shanty we all know, dating possibly from the 1800’s and it starts, and ends, with suitable on board a galleon sound in a storm fx. The later Pistols did Friggin In The Riggin, here Charlie hits us with his arrangement of another traditional song. I wanted to grab a flagon of ale, share the contents with Mr H and drink and sing a long! Could this make a UK SUBS set? I can hear it now, I can see Charlie with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and that huge smile with a full band behind it and hear the crowd joining in “earleeee in the morning“!
Some of the tracks on this CD, four in total, were written by Woody Guthrie. He was an American singer-songwriter, one of the most significant figures in American folk music. His songs, including social justice songs, have inspired several generations both politically and musically. He wrote hundreds of political, folk, and children’s songs.
The album was recorded and mixed over 5 days in September 2017 at The Brighton Road Recording Studios and features Charlie playing 6 and 12-string guitar as well as harmonica. Ali Gavan, who jointly runs the studio played drums and piano and The Ramonas’ Victoria Smith played bass.
As well Charlie, Vicky and Ali, they were joined in the studio by Attila The Stockbroker on fiddle, who posted a photo of himself in the studio with Charlie. Some astonishing work there on the fiddle. Vicky continues to do what she does so well with her bass. Some great drum patterns fitting with the tone of the album and some super piano especially during Inspiration.
The album title ‘Little Black Crow’, is taken from one of the acoustic songs Charlie recorded for the bonus disc of the U.K. Subs 2013 ‘XXIV’ CD release. Charlie produced the new album himself and the artwork was done by Jack Hamilton, who also did the art on The Ramonas’ aforementioned release. Charlie described the album as “…a children’s album adults will love…” and is hoping to record a follow up solo album later this year, time permitting.
Charlie has included 3 new self penned titles. on this album, and that includes Little Black Crow with Charlie and just a guitar and his harmonica. Perfect listening whilst out on the porch sitting on your bench watching the sun go down. It finishes with a couple of squawks from the aforementioned crow! Spokane Special and Inspiration are up next. Inspiration is a fabulous song, its a beautiful ballad and some heart rending vocals and lyrics wrapped up with a piano piece. Charlie just pulls you into the song.
Ok, not gonna tell you any more! No more spoilers. Just go have a listen, enjoy and discover what Charlie has put together for you. The album is just full of surprises, and perfect for a summer drive with the roof down. This CD is on repeat! We do get new music here, I have to admit to have fallen big time for this. Its kinda different every time you listen to it. I understand it is due on vinyl at some point.
Nice job Mr Harper – some damn fine work. I think I had as much fun listening to this as you no doubt did whilst recording it. Thank you.
Go grab a copy of Little Black Crow from a gig or from here
UKSUBS on the WWW here
Please note all original images / video are copyright, please do not copy. If any of the featured artists/promoters/venues want copies of the images – or more if available – please just get in touch.
All original pictures / video – copyright to IANB/MEDIA WORKS/ SCENE SUSSEX – Ian “The Lens” Bourn 2018.
Got an event coming up? Need some gig photography, promo shots, previews or reviews? – please get in touch! See you down the front – come and say “hi!”