The songs collected on
I'm A Workin' Chap are a combination of Enock Kent's interpretation of traditionals (and "Jamie Foyers" by Ewan MacColl), his originals done in the traditional style, or his addition of new lyrics to traditional tunes (as well as Garnet Rogers' haunting instrumental "Green Eyes"), making a cornucopia of songwriting styles the likes of which this (admittedly inexperienced) ear has never heard before.
Kent's quiet charm sneaks up on you long after his deep Scottish burr draws you in. Kent's burnished vocals--whether accompanied by a solo guitar or a capella--evoke solid emotion without his really seeming to try. So that a song like "The Farm Auction" elicits a surprised tear from the listener, who simply wasn't ready for a song that strong.
The subjects range from love to sex to politics to hardship but remain firmly entrenched in the life of the "workin' chap." Spare arrangements merely add to the "reality" of the lyrics, with production not getting in the way of a good song, as can often happen. Kent is happy to let the songs speak for themselves, adding only the occasional light flute or fiddle to enhance the atmosphere of the tune--as opposed to creating one from scratch.
But it's Kent's delivery that makes the songs what they are. I dare you to not feel the inherent pain of "The Farm Auction" when you hear Kent sing:
There's bone and silver napkin rings, elastic bands 'round spoons and things
Tiny fingers held the strings of that fiddle in the case
And there's coffee pots we never used, silver frames, a little bruised,
Around the portraits that amused us in the parlour and the hall
The auctioneer comes here today, privacy upon display
The highest bidder takes away, but they can't take it all
Like fireglow and favorite songs and laughter, they're the things among
The memories that still belong within those empty rooms
Luckily the whole album isn't like that, the sad songs interlaced with fun numbers like "A Drunk Man Looks at the Weavin'," a highly original tribute to weavers and their unsung contribution to our daily lives. Kent takes a serious subject and gives it a light touch to make us think.
...Unless yer deid and barrid and lyin' in the clay
Yer probably wearin somethin crafted by a weaver
A fool one said that "clothes do not maketh any man"
But I ha'e an argument that's on the other haun
And if ye'd ever seen a naked Pope, you'd laugh 'til ye couldnae staun
God bless the raiments crafted by the weavers
How aboot the astronauts whirlin' roon and roon
They use a woven parachute jist tae help them tae get doon
An' if it wisnae for their troosers ye wid see a big full moon
I wonder if they think o' a' the weavers
I'm A Workin' Chap is a marvelous album, through and through, and belongs on the shelf of any fan of Scottish folk or just plain good songs and singing.
Click on the links above to purchase any of the items mentioned, or use the search box below to find what you like.
(Or just email me and let me know what you think.)