KATIE GRACE HARRIS
The Toledo Sessions
This album was inspired by myriad journeys as a child in her father’s car, a blue Triumph Toledo and the special time they enjoyed singing songs together.
Most of the songs are folk standards but I was a little put off by the opening track, “The Ellan Vannin Tragedy”. Verses missed out, one verse glued together with two parts of another verse, not the best start.
“Bedlam Boys”, came out of Bethlem Hospital where mentally ill men were housed in the 17th century and Magdalen Hospital which housed women with the same sad condition. Katie shows her versatility on the piano accordian.
Reg Meuross joined Katie to sing one of his songs, “Counting My Footsteps to You”.
Two more original songs, this time from close to Katie’s roots, “Ghost of Lulworth”, referring to Lulworth Cove in Dorset and “Haul Away Hallsands”, the story of a village of 157 people that no longer existed following a storm in 1917. For centuries it stood on the South Devon coast and was overwhelmed in the bitter storm.
Two different types of shanties show the diverse nature of these songs, both are traditional, “Rio Grande”, explains what life was like for those left behind on shore, while “Leave Her Johnny” harks back when Katie grew up in Southampton and was acutely aware of the Titanic story, after she sank, hundreds of local families were affected, this song is legendary and deals with one of them.
This is a short but no less diluted look at the Royal Navy’s official march, Hearts of Oak a call to men to join the Navy and hints at the press gangs of old.
Katie wrote, “Come One, Come All”.
“Hard Times” is a traditional anthem which is eminently singable and retains its universal meaning.
To end, another self penned song, “Betsy McLeod’s Lament”, abandoned ruins left from the Highland Clearances. This song tells of her bravery in protecting her family from eight henchmen one fateful night. Katie again demonstrates her talent for getting to the root of the problem no matter how good or bad that might be.
I felt listening to this CD that Katie although really talented could do with taking some songs by the scruff of the neck, shaking them and giving them a more rounded and powerful sound.