Matthew Frederick

July 2020 : Song of the Month : Matthew Frederick : Laura Jones

Multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and frontman of Climbing Trees, Matthew Frederick released his debut solo album, Fragments, in April.

Six months earlier the bucolic acoustic haze of the single Hay-on-Wye had suggested that Fragments would be something special - and that impression proved correct.

As for all the tracks on the album, the newest single culled from it, Laura Jones, was recorded at Mwnci Studios in Hebron, Carmarthenshire, with Frederick playing every instrument.

The song has a plaintive tone, a subtle vignette of regret - the subject a small-town teenage romance lost to the wider ambition of one participant. Escape from the constraints of place has featured in Frederick's songwriting before - most notably for Climbing Trees' Graves; it is a theme he seems to have an innate understanding of, or at least revel in.

Laura Jones also marries Frederick’s love of classic American songwriters to his own South Walian musical roots, and underlines a rare ability to construct an evocative narrative with spare lyrics and stirring music.

Matthew Frederick is one of Wales’ finest solo performers, Laura Jones is a long-time highlight of his live sets, and this recorded version of the song is the perfect gateway to a magnificent studio album.

July 2020 : Video of the Month : Show of Hands : Bristol Slaver

Bristol Slaver is a song re-worked from a version that first appeared on Show of Hands’ Dark Fields album 23 years ago. The track poetically sketches the amoral motives and lingering ghosts of a trade in human life that lasted from the sixteenth to nineteenth century, financially fuelling much of Britain’s early industrial revolution.

Show of Hand’s Steve Knightley originally wrote Bristol Slaver, ‘after watching a BBC ‘special’ from Bristol Docks that somehow managed to avoid the word ‘slavery’ throughout’. The caustic, lamenting song maps the life of a Bristol slaver, eternally cursed by his actions and those he damned for profit.

As ever working from a certain social conscience, to bring the lyrics up to date Knightley has added a closing stanza, ‘I will drown / your cold-stone heart / in the ocean’, which the video ties to imagery of Edward Colston’s statue slipping into the Bristol harbour - a fate delivered by local Black Lives Matter protesters.

The shame and profound consequence of slavery is still written deeply in British society - symbolically, socially and in economic inequality. A song might not change that immediately, but a powerful one such as this can move people to action from despair; the compelling video shot to accompany Bristol Slaver's re-release reinforces that potent energy.