Kevin Ridley

My T-shirt drawer has two colours to it, Black for the new metal shirts or charcoal from the old metal shirt but with one exception, an 18 year old tie dye T embossed with the grimacing sun of the Levellers emblazed upon it.

You see, I have a soft spot for folk music with its hard edge, not the diddly diddly but gritty realism of life put to music. Add to this decent violin players and I’m made.

So we come to Kevin Ridley, who seems to have come to this point from the opposite direction, being a engineer and producer for some of the more extreme thrash metal acts for the last 35 years, he’s decided to put his own personal experiences down on tape instead of over peoples and as its bloody good.

The comparisons to the Waterboys, The Levellers (in vocals at least) are bound to materialise. But taking his experience of Northern England and a group of unlikely session players, Kevin Ridley has produced an album of songs with real grit and realism that are honest in their content as their delivery.

There are some tracks that take some getting used to including ‘The Linton Flyer’ with its distinctly seaside sound or ‘Still Lucid After All These Beers’ that has to take the prize for most ludicrously Saturday night song ever.

Don’t let these put you off because around them, there are some real gems. ‘Point Of Departure’ is the North East’s equivalent of ‘Downeaster Alexa’. Or ‘They Dance Till Tomorrow’ which details the Border Reivers blight from the North’s distant past.

But ‘Angel At Harlow Green’ is the real stand out track off the album, a ditty about what the Angel of the North means to Gateshead and more importantly the attitude and character of the North East.

Add to this a personal homecoming put down to some excellent violin bowing on ‘De Profundis (Back Home Again)’, proved that Kevin Ridley should step from behind the mixing desk more often.

There is a great song by Show of Hands called ‘Roots’ that bemoans the fact that the English have lost their songs and stories and in turn their heritage. Well, Kevin Ridley has just redressed the balance in England’s favour.

Simon Mulholland