Waiting For Purgatory

Not your average folkie! Liverpudlian songwriter Stephen Lawson is a child of one of our toughest city’s harshest estates, his hard-edged indie-folk reflects his experiences as both participant with, and observer of, those who have been left behind.

As a musician his pedigree can be traced back to the second Scouse Invasion, playing in bands alongside the likes of Echo and The Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes and enjoying the support of the legendary John Peel, among others.

Throughout the different incarnations, he has gone by the name Bluenose B. His recent releases have gathered together various friends to accompany him on his journey, but the new album sees him taking centre stage in the main, delivering his own songs.

The album is heralded by chiming and jangling guitars, reminiscent of hometown favourites such as The La’s and The Lightening Seeds and introduces a gently toned voice that belies the considerable appearance of the deliverer.

Both the openers, Endlessly and Girl You’re Sweet set the tone for the album. In contrast to the gritty reality of his last album, The Lost Estates, which told the tales of people at the margins, this is a collection of songs that head straight to the heart of the matter – it’s an album of love – in all its forms, unending, unforgiving, unrequited, unsatisfying and both personal, yet occasionally, universal and even leaving space for a little romance.

‘Waiting for Purgatory’ manages to unify most of those themes, incorporating the autobiographical and the confessional, around an upbeat and singalong, almost nautical tune. that wouldn’t disgrace The Spinners, though the subject matter may not have made it one of their TV favourites, as summed up by the opening refrain:

Scouse, Irish Catholic, I said to my priest,
“Father. is Heaven at all in my reach?”
He looked at me kindly, but said “Sorry son”
“Hell is the place that you know you belong”

Track 4 is often the decider when reviewing an album. You know that artists tend to front load with their favourite songs, so how much you enjoy the fourth can tell you a lot about a CD. In this case, along with the title track, ‘Never Be With Me’ is a highlight – a folky, yet funky shuffle around a nightclub dancefloor, with vocals shared with Merry Hell’s Virginia Kettle and guitar contributions from producer John Kettle and fiddle parts from Neil McCartney, ex of the parish of The Hell and now working remotely from Thailand.

Having decided that the album passes the Track 4 test, it does continue to deliver, in a style that can best be characterised as indie-folk – a traditional base but with definite pop sensibilities. The theme of love is maintained throughout the album, with lyrics that are searching, often autobiographical and occasionally brutally honest. If you are looking for lonely shepherds in 1649, you will not find them here – it is as modern as folk gets, using tradition as a boat and not an anchor. Stephen (or Bluenose) even manages a little bit of politics, but given the overall focus of the songs, it may come as no surprise to find that in ‘Though It Rains’, he suggests that the act of love can be a soothing alternative to a repressive and divisive government.

The album ends on a lush note, visiting relationships that can be measured in hours rather than years and serve only to fill the time until the bars are open again, the sweetness of the music belying the sourness of the subject matter – and it is these types of contrasts that keeps the album interesting throughout, a glimpse of a world that many of us will not recognise but accompanied by music that we can all enjoy!

With a new album already on the way, it will be interesting to see where it takes us, and I am looking forward to finding out, and hoping that it won’t be an eternity before we do!

The album is available to buy, download or stream from the Bluenose B Bandcamp page

MERRY HELL - Let the Music Speak for Itself