Love Forgiven, a first collaboration between Ruth Angell and Sid Peacock, is a multi-layered production with hidden depths. It’s one of those albums that grows on you with repeated listening.
Ruth, hailing from Derbyshire, provides vocals, violin, piano, electric guitar and harmonium. Sid from Northern Ireland brings his singing, acoustic guitar and Godin guitar to the collaboration. This is truly a fascinating and unique production, with at least four separate complementary strands.
There are traditional tracks arranged and sung purely and hauntingly. Ruth and Sid also sing their own compositions and arrangements. Some of these are famous poems set to music, presented with care in lyrical, poignant, and sometimes unobtrusive settings. They play traditional tunes and write their own, demonstrating the full range of their musicianship.
Love Forgiven opens with a beautiful folk song, Ruth singing She Moved Through the Fair. The purity of her voice is spellbinding, supported by a simple melancholic acoustic background. Her use of pace, pauses and silences is sensitive, and the depth of emotion she evokes is vast.
Another traditional track is Tiny Sparrow. This is Ruth’s version of Come All You Fair and Tender Maidens. Once again, she uses inflection and emotion to tell the story with compelling conviction accompanied by electric guitar.
Sid’s singing provides an unexpected contrast. His delivery is reminiscent of Tom Waits, as are some of his lyrics: ’I’m a drinker,/I’m a smoker,/I’m a waster by my trade./The only things I keep are the things I’m taking to the grave.’
Sid’s version of the traditional song Carrickfergus, second on the album, shows his ability to interpret traditional songs. The opening guitar riff has a startling jazz flavour to it, which is a surprise after Ruth’s She Moved Through the Fair.
This transition alone shows that Love Forgiven keeps you on your toes. There is no coasting, the careful sequencing of pieces remains alert to the twists and turns in love’s fortune. The songs capture a range of situations and vignettes, all poignant, some hopeful, some heavy with the pain of loss and learning from experience, all somehow resolved in the end.
Sid’s singing style emerges in its own right on his composition, Vagabonds’ Lullaby and Hope for the Young, the latter of which is an appropriately reflective closing piece.
The title track, Love Forgiven is a beautiful joint performance of Alan Ginsberg’s poem and song, which appropriately blends both Sid’s and Ruth’s voices. The high point of the album precedes it, with a creative composition that opens with Sid’s reading of Sudeep Sen’s Kiss: a Haiku followed by No Roses, Ruth’s creative arrangement and evocative delivery of Christina Rossetti’s Song: When I am Dead my Dearest.
Then there are the wonderful instrumentals: combining insistent guitar with winding violin, Malahide, their own composition, ’inspired by a sad story of difficult times, the contradictory dramatic danger of the lure of the sea then the reassurance and possibilities that come with a beautiful sunrise and a new day’. The everchanging line of the music takes us through harmonic steps emulating all of these twists and turns.
There is also a set of extremely well-executed traditional tunes, The Birds (The Robin/The Blackbird/The Penguins). Finally, towards the end of the album comes The Humours of Lissadell, ’about the guts of a place’. A traditional Irish instrumental, with rousing violin and guitar, it builds to a climax, then quietly subsiding and disappearing. This shows Ruth and Sid at their traditional folk best.
The variety in style, content, pace and delivery contained within this album is remarkable. You have your pick of acoustic, pure traditional folk beautifully executed, great tunes, and some contemporary songs. Whatever your mood, you’ll find something on Love Forgiven that fits.
A first album for these two talented performers playing together, high quality in its own right, we can be quietly confident and hopeful about what lies ahead.