Earth Is Sleeping is the new album from Judy Dyble, formerly of Fairport Convention and Trader Horne, and this is her first album of new material in several years. Well, some are brand new compositions, some are “old scribblings” that have been revisited, reimagined and recast. There’s also a Trader Horne song from nearly 50 years ago. Yes, this album has a history to it and is a renaissance of sorts, and after many years of being lost to the public Judy is again facing the world, offering her beautiful, sweet and melodious voice to us, imparting her view of the world that she sees now. Gone is the young girl who brought Fairport Convention into our lives, this Judy Dyble is older and wiser, but still with the wonderfully pure voice and great phrasing. If I were to sum this album up in one word it would be ‘Exquisite, for that is what it is.
I’ve had this album on daily repeat recently and every spin reveals new colours and depths, it’s like looking at a woven carpet and seeing the subtleties afresh every time. This music will captivate, enthral and carry you away into a gentler world, so sit back, grab a glass of something and we’ll begin.
Before I start let me you comment on the CD booklet, with great artwork by Catherine Hyde, the front cover featuring her ‘Hare and Moon’, with Sarah Ewing’s ‘Snow Goose’ on the rear, and personal insights into the songs by Judy herself.
The album starts with Marianna, and straight away you can hear the tenderness and clarity of Judy’s voice, strong and distinctive with a Folk edge, ably supported by Neal Hoffman’s fine guitar and subtle organ and bass parts. We then move onto Promises with its evocative opening lines: “He said he’d find her pillows filled with the sighs of doves and other promises made but not delivered.” A good and concise solo at the two minute mark lifts the song even more, past its sublime lyrics into a tremendously impressive and inspired piece of music. Sensational stuff, and with strong playing in the background, this is very fine indeed.
Answerphone is very maudlin and sad, talking of how someone dials the answerphone of a deceased person just so he can hear her voice again, always hoping that she will answer even though he knows she won’t. With another fine solo by Jeremy Salmon and strings from Alistair Murphy, it’s very sad but well done and memorable. Then we are on to a far jollier song, Take Me Dancing. This a song of optimism with a touch of wistfulness and, again, sadness. The string section takes a significant part in this song with a great melody before the acoustic guitar of Jeremy Salmon is bought into play in another strong song.
Next is a song from some 45 years ago, part written by the now sadly deceased Martin Quittenton and featuring a plaintive low whistle by Brendan McAuley. Judy says of this that she can’t remember why it was written but thinks that someone may have upset her. Faded Elvis is a song about a failed and not very successful Elvis impersonator who performs to escape his miserable existence. This is a masterfully written and observed piece, very melancholic in tone but with a touch of hope at the end. It’s another fine song with interesting subject matter and lovely keyboards from Phil Toms.
See What Your Words is a love song, or a song about the beginning of love and how the word can carry one away to a different place. With a haunting violin line from Steve Bingham and more fine Keys from Phil Toms this is a standout track for me on an album of very strong, well written and imaginative songs.
She Now Owns A Heart Of Stone is an interesting track, featuring Matt Stevens of The Fierce & The Dead on guitar and also as co-writer. The longest song on the album, it’s the one with the most prog folk leanings, and very good it is too. Tthis has an excellent saxophone segment in it to alongside the great guitar work of Stevens, Murphy and Salmon giving this a full and expansive sound Quite rightly a in not the highlight of the album, simply terrific I really like this song a lot, magical with great performances from all parties involved. Lullaby for Ellie follows, a brief and heartfelt song to Judy’s new born granddaughter, with a nice keyboard sound of tubular bells chiming and delicate lyrics this is a gentle life affirming piece.
I Found A Rainbow is about a scientists who captures a rainbow, puts it between two slides of glass and wonders what would happen if it was freed. Again, short and simple but with great background strings. Broken Day describes the end of an affair and the sadness that brings, with another great guitar performance from Jeremy Salmon and more graceful keyboards from Phil Toms. Whilst wistful and sad it’s an openhearted song with lovely evocative lyrics.
The penultimate track is the title piece, about the coldness of winter and the frost that hangs in twisted tangles, this is a winter song with strong imagery, a good double tracked vocal and haunting strings, plus a great bassoon part. The outro features fine piano from Alistair Murphy. Finally, New-born Creatures, the second longest on the CD but it does not overstay its welcome, unfolding delicately with firstly acoustic guitar and then some tasteful electric. After the opening verse there are some great Uillean pipes from Brendan McAuley and it’s a song with a fine and memorable refrain, of the glories of the world, the wonder and joyousness to be found in it. It’s a fitting close to a simply marvellous album, elegant graceful and filled with wonder it’s an album to enjoy repeatedly.
It is a testament to the craft of great song writing and to subtle performances where everyone is playing for the song, to support and lift it above the mundane into the realms of something very special. I heartily recommend this to you all.
01. Marianna (4:17)
02. Promises (3:44)
03. Answerphone (3:09)
04. Take Me Dancing (3:44)
05. Velvet To Atone (2:44)
06. Faded Elvis (5:22)
07. See What Your Words (2:31)
08. She Now Owns A Heart Of Stone (6:59)
09. Lullaby For Ellie (2:33)
10. I Found A Rainbow (2:03)
11. Broken Day (4:49)
12. Earth Is Sleeping 4:36)
13. New-born Creatures (5:39)
Total Time – 51:50
Judy Dyble – Vocals, Autoharp
Alistair Murphy – Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar, Horn Arrangements
Neal Hoffman – Backing Vocals, Guitar, Organ, Bass Guitar, Glockenspiel, Recorder, Synth
Paul Love – Drums
Laurie A‘Court – Tenor, Alto & Soprano Saxophones
Jeremy Salmon – Guitar
Mark Fletcher – Bass Guitar
Phil Toms – Keyboards, String Arrangements
Steve Bingham – Violin
Brenda Stewart – Viola
Daniel Grace – Cello
Ian Burrage – Drums, Cajon
Pat Masetelotto – Drums
Brenden McAuley – Low Whistle, Uillean pipes
Matt Stevens – Guitar
Rich Nolan – Drums
Brian Gulland – Bassoon
Dean Francis Hawksley – Programming, Cello Arrangement
Record Label: Acid Jazz
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 6th July 2018