Sally Ironmonger & Brian Carter
The Company I Keep (2014)
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pennyblackmusic.co.uk (Jan 2015) Reviewed by: Owen Peters
Anything which comes in for review and has a lyric sheet which can be read clearly is off to a good start.
Oh Sally, oh Sally, you little, teasing, thought-provoking, foot-tapping, belly-laughing, ale swigging, murdering, schizophrenic, tear-inducing wordsmith.
If you can relate to the playful words of Jake Thackray, working class roots of Billy Bragg and rangey vocal of Kirsty McColl, you’re going to adore ‘The Company I Keep’ by Sally Ironmonger.
Here’s my suggestion. Switch off the TV, plus all types of outside communication. Ramp up the heating, log fire preferred option. Get close and comfy with your loved one. Someone you know, preferred option. Open up a couple of beers, real ale preferred option (no reports of lager, please) and play ‘The Company I Keep’, volume at the listener’s discretion.
Sitting comfortably, nice and warm, clink of glasses, cheers, here we go.
The opening track ‘Food Banks and Ferraris’. It’s a social commentary on those who have and those who haven’t, hence the title. False promises from 1945 to today’s “robbers in their fortified towers” It’s written with such clarity and passion I can see an audience not only applauding, but nodding in totally agreement with the song’s sentiments.
Everyone has a secret yearning to be on ‘Desert Island Discs’. I can see you out there using those heads again to nod in agreement. So, by the same title ‘Desert Island Discs’, she embarks on her own journey. Favourite book ‘The Old Man and the Sea”. Luxury? To take a long?… . A person tut tuts, but, although she claims she knows the rules, she says, “I would insist”. Here is a game for you on this track. How many songs titles can you spot in the lyrics?
If you have a relative who works or worked with his hands – miner, docker, lathe operator, shipbuilder – I must warn you ‘Metal Work’ comes with a tear warning. It’s a gentle song, telling how metal and all its components, rivets, oil, hammers gave this man an identity. The drifting violin solo by James Cook locks you into an age gone by. “He’s not a man to change a nappy…no poetry or silliness.” Encased in the oil and a life of metal, he’s someone who won’t let you down.
Ready for another beer? Cheers…
‘Bagpipe Man’ is a good old English folk song. A story of ransoms, gallows, double crossing, comeuppance and an abundance of ale. The constant beat of a percussion drum somehow evokes a sense of farm animals, straw, rotten teeth and horse riders on the horizon.
A nifty burst of harmonica blues and violin accompaniments sets up ‘Murder on My Mind’. It is a funny, humorous ditty. ”He was so exciting at the start, but he’s just irritating now.” She’s weary of her now ex-lover. He’s a cohabitor, nothing else. She wants him gone. So begins to ponder various means of murder.
“Electrify his chair,ok/Push him down the stairs,ok/Put arsenic in his beer.” Wow,! Hold on, a woman can go too far and ruin a good beer.
Recall back in the late 70’s Supertramp with ‘The Logical Song’? It was a huge production number, with synthesisers, the double layering of drums, choral harmonies. Here we have a stripped down version. Guitar and lyrics, simple. I like the arrangement as it makes you listen to the lyrical content which may previously have been lost in its original format.
The old joke which goes…”The most exciting event in (insert your town) are the traffic’s lights changing.” Here that town or village is visited in ‘Normal’.
Don’t be fooled by “hairdressers, pubs and charity shops.” The town is Jekyll and Hyde in personality. “She’s a savage beast/She’s a Lola?On the prowl for freaky stuff.”
‘Normal’ can be gauged on the frivolous scale by the following line: “Don’t think I’ve vanilla because I’m really tutti frutti with a chocolate flake on top” Wonderful.
The album closes with ‘The Company I Keep’ and aptly she returns to her working class roots, making a clear statement on the type of folks she prefers to be with. From dressmakers, to boilermakers, to those who are there when she sheds a tear, she’s happy and you’re welcome on her street.
Nine of the twelve songs are written by Ironmonger with her husband Brian Carter. Arrangements are simple and complement each song, without taking over the theme or sentiment.
It feels as though it’s a well thought out album. With its social history, blues, folk, humour, it is beautifully put together and very enjoyable.
When listening to this album, please drink responsibly.
Another beer and another listen? Oh go on then. Don’t forget the tear tissues this time.
Bof Whalley R2 Review (Nov/Dec 2014)
“Anger in music is lazily typified as a rock’n’roll yell – turn up the volume, we have something to say – yet there’s a growing pop history of anger that doesn’t shout but insinuates, convinces and cajoles, sucks you in with melody and harmony, and whispers of injustice and inequality.. It’s a proud and softly sung lineage running from Billie Holliday through CSN&Y, Randy Newman, Christy Moore, Kirsty MacColl, The Beautiful South and thousands of others with one ear to the world and one to a beautiful melody.
The opening song here, the jazz-lilt of ‘Foodbanks and Ferraris’, strikes the balance perfectly: a swaying easy tune, gorgeously sung, betraying a lyric bite. ‘Now the promises of ‘45 are just broken dreams and lies – foodbanks and Ferraris on the rise’. Elsewhere, Sally, accompanied by co-writer Brian Carter, offsets the anger with humour and charm with the witty ‘Normal’ (‘Don’t think I’m vanilla because I’m really tutti frutti with a chocolate flake on top’) and an anthemic celebration of the infamous Naked Rambler. And that cover of Supertramp’s ‘Logical Song’? Simply lovely.”
Fatea (Aug 2015)
Medway based singer/songwriter Sally Ironmonger is joined by guitar playing, musical directing, co-writing husband Brian Carter, and a plethora of other fine musicians on her third studio album ‘The Company I keep’, in a bid to create a fuller sound for this fine offering!
The album consists of 12 tracks, 9 of which are self penned and the remaining very decent interpretations of others contemporary work, including a very pleasing version of Supertramp’s ‘The Logical song’. The songs seem to fall into three categories: social commentary, storytelling, and wry observations of this crazy world we live in….there’s definitely an element of rebellion hiding within Sally, may be more than she lets on here!!!!
The overall feel of the album is very uplifting, choruses a plenty to tempt the listener to engage….and this is something that Sally achieves on virtually all of the contributions here; you just have to join in and can’t help nodding in concordance to many of the witticisms and reflections in these songs! Think a lazy sunny, Sunday afternoon, think a cold cider in hand whilst perched in reclining chair while taking in the festival life and you’re there with Sally….now bottle it, and you have this album!
Highlights for this listener come in the form of the two story telling style songs, ‘Metal Work’ ( which tells the story of a man’s devotion to his work, despite the products of his trade), there’s something very Billy Bragg in the writing and delivery of this one….no bad thing!, and ‘Bagpipe Man’ (a ‘sordid tale’ of an ex soldier, oh too fond of his ale!) which takes a more traditional, maybe even slightly Celtic direction……with these two songs Sally’s vocals may well be at their most honest….raw and direct!
Well written, well presented, and produced to a very high standard ‘The Company I Keep’ is well worth a listen or even better several listens! Good, wholesome,contemporary acousti-folk!
Alan Rose, Tykes’ News, Spring 2016
Once again, an opening track of awesome power and commitment (Foodbanks and Ferraris) leads us into an album bursting with good ideas and great music. A more quirky and ambitious choice of covers this time – 10cc’s Logical Song, Chris Smithers’ Origin of Species and Bad Attitude by West/Euliss. The Ironmonger/Carter songs also display development – there’s the same mixture of statement and story, but there is an indefinable aura of added assurance in the writing and the performance. Also the harmonica of Jim Riley, (who also did the recording) was used sparingly on the first record, while here it’s all over the place, and great it is. One slightly disconcerting note for the Yorkshire folk, is that during her murder ballad The Bagpipe Man she reveals the anti-hero’s name is “Duncan McFarland” – bloody ‘ell!
Notwithstanding, Sally and Brian are definitely worth looking out for – they have great songs containing humour and social comment in equal proportions and perform them with skill and commitment – also equal proportions. I’m proud to be on their side.
Sally Ironmonger © 2020