In 2018, Craig Bickhardt released this album on the cusp of reaching that magic number of a birthday: one seemingly impossibly ancient, and imagined by Lennon & McCartney as follows:
No such digging the weeds for our Craig, at 64: this album fizzes with energy. It is clear that in Craig’s garden, the weeds would not have had the time to grow...!! Here he kicks off with Steady As She Goes: a song that reminds us of Craig’s Irish ancestors, and their brave journey westward to a whole New World. It is a song that evokes Shaun Davey’s The Brendan Voyage: not that there is a set of uilleann pipes in sight...but John Mock’s gorgeous Irish whistle, is a tailor-made substitute.
But it was the fourth track, Racing The Bullet, that really made this album take off. Absolutely thrilling. Fine bluesy vocals from Craig, but it was the stunning mandolin of Andy Leftwich, that made the cut catch fire. The vocals have a Ry Cooder feel to them, and the mandolin playing is that good that it could not just have been Cooder, but David Grisman at his peak. And to show it was no fluke, Leftwich pops up again on track six, Chesapeake Bay, and dazzles us again.
By this time, I was happily disposed towards this album. And of the remaining numbers, I was most taken by West of Wherever You Are, a song with a James Taylor feel: and I also found the title track arresting.
Incidentally, Craig’s own mandolin playing shows he is no slouch too. On tracks 8 and 10, he demonstrates his own multi instrumental skills.
I really liked this album, even if the saccharine final track One Little Light, proved a track too far for me. The songs are well crafted, and I loved the fact that all his lyrics are up there on his fine website. I should end my review here, but want to make a final point.
A few years ago, I incurred the wrath of Scottish Folk mogul Ian Green by quite properly protesting when stickers defaced his finished product. He got mightily miffed over my protest, but I worried not, because I was 100 per cent in the right (which no doubt was why he got in a tizzy).
Well blow me, if here we don’t see a repeat of such defacement. On the back cover of this Digipak, we have the obscenity of a sticker showing the track running order ...when this is already shown on the inside of the Digipak...!! And the sticker cannot be removed, such is the power of the adhesive.
I tried to work it out. Why do it? Had there been a last-minute change in the running order? Then the penny dropped. The sticker also contained the contact address and phone number of publicity agent, Michelle Fortier at trespassmusic.org.
This sticker is hiding a photo of Craig: all I can alas see, is his cranium and his eyebrows...!! Don’t do it Michelle: it is a philistine act. This album deserves better.
I am sure that, as with Ian Green, you are a fine person, and you mean well. And I defend to the death your and his right to accompany your gratis review copies with as many leaflets/stickers as you like. Just please don’t affix them to the CD back cover, and thus deprive the reviewer of the full CD experience.
Remember that listening is not the whole job: the visuals of the CD Digipak are very much part of the process.
Photo Credits: (1)-(2) Craig Bickhardt (unknown/website).