I’ve always liked the breadth of Jacqui McShee’s repertoire and often dwelt on the fact that she never really got a solo career underway when she could have done. She’s always seemed to prefer the shelter of a band, even the present incarnation of Pentangle bears her name. Predictably it was that very group which was responsible for bringing Kevin Dempsey onto her radar when he stepped in as a last minute substitute at a Pentangle festival gig. Obviously they’d been aware of what each other could do, his funk, soul and blues guitar stylings suiting McShee’s more jazzish and rootsy tendencies; both love the more intimate settings of trad songs. You could well ask why they hadn’t teamed up before.
McDem is their label – think about it!- which offers here a first glimpse of what they’ve been up to and reflects faithfully their live repertoire, seen by your scribe at the close of 2019. Opening with ‘Nature Boy,’ the old easy listening standard – you know the lad, very strange and enchanted according to the lyric, when Nat King Cole sang it I could never fathom the song at all. Give it to Jacqui McShee and hey presto, is this really the same number? The funky undertow produced by K.D’s guitar lifts matters to another level and that warm vocal wraps around the mystical lyric with a waft of delicacy.
A clutch of folk songs is headed by a Dempsey adaptation of ‘ Jack Monroe,’ you may well recall Steeleye did a cracking version in their Maddyless period. Here it’s all unplugged. There’s true love, near death, sailing on the high sea and cross dressing! Not bad for three minutes. A refit of the old Pentangle ‘Lord Franklin,’ – “ my favourite song that John Renbourn sang,” Jacqui – is as dark and strangely alluring as the original, again great picking from Mr. Dempsey. Lest I forget they write as well, ‘Frankie’ is a hymn to Jacqui’s parents and takes the honours as the most personal selection whilst ‘Telephone Lies,’ recounts the life of a family man out on the grind of a tour and missing his family… ‘ still two weeks from home!’
Housed in a sturdy water wash, turquoise sleeve, the reliable Joe Broughton and Kevin D, overseeing the whole project ‘ From There To Here,’ is a quiet success which deserves to be heard wide and far beyond any roots/folk pigeon hole. Here in lies decent music.
Spiral Earth Rating.