When A Man's In Love
Danny Spooner's When A Man's In Love is a 2002 CD re-issue of an vinyl LP album originally released in 1987. And long overdue, one might add, and one can only hope that all his previous LP albums will see a re-issue.
Danny Spooner is an extraordinary folk singer in the very best tradition. Born and raised in London, he migrated to Australia in his twenties. Music formed an integral part of his upbringing, and singing always was a part of his life, whether at home or as a young man working the Thames barges and North Sea tugs and fishing trawlers, singing traditional working and other folk songs. This did not cease with his moving to Australia, where he also picked up the repertoire of Australian folk song. Although eventually turning to an academic career and becoming a professor of social history, Danny Spooner also continued to be very active on the folk scene, and nowadays his extraordinary strong, booming voice can be heard not only in Oz but at folk clubs and festivals all over the world, including in the United Kingdom and United States. Spooner also has a sizeable back catalogue of recordings to his credit.
On the album reviewed here, When A Man's In Love, we hear Danny Spooner departing from the songs of the sea, war, work and strong masculine characters and political activism, and the sensitive rendering of hardship and pain, sorrow and joy that he is more generally renowned for, and turn to an altogether more tender subject. As the title, When A Man's In Love, indicates, this album focuses on songs of love from a distinctly male perspective, and Spooner, as always, unravels compelling tales of tender poignancy, here singing of unrequited love, misadventure and true love found with that elusive soul mate.
Of the eleven songs on Danny Spooner's When A Man's In Love, most are traditional. One takes its lyrics from a poem by Anglo-Irish poet W.B. Yeats, with the melody attributed to one Richard Dyer-Bennet, while three are by contemporary folk luminaries Jake Thackray, Chas & Dave, and Ewan MacColl. The traditional material comes from the English and Irish traditions, its history briefly but expertly annotated in Spooner's excellent sleeve notes. And thanks to Danny Spooner's outstanding diction the lyrics of all the songs are beautifully easy to follow. Although he has never had any formal voice training, his voice has the kind of power and projection that would be the envy of many a operatic singer, but of course you would have to hear him live in an acoustic setting to experience this fully. Here, Danny Spooner sounds beautifully restrained to suit his subject, sensitive but without ever straying into the overly sentimental. Some of the songs are beautiful unaccompanied vocals, on others Spooner accompanies himself on acoustic guitar or English concertina. Cockney duo Chas & Dave's Wish I Could Write A Lovesong sees the addition of a haunting piano.
Danny Spooner's When A Man's In Love is an album of great beauty as well as charm and deeply moving, the songs and the singer speak to the heart, from the heart. It is also the voice of a man who has experienced it all, all the pains and all the joys alike, and who thus brings not just sensitivity but emotional authenticity to these beautiful songs. No collection of British folk music could be complete without Danny Spooner's When A Man's In Love, this album is a treasure. Reviews of several more of Danny Spooner's albums plus a UK club appearance should follow in short order.
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