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Charlie Dore – Cheapskate Lullabyes (CD Review)

Charlie Dore – Cheapskate Lullabyes (CD Review)
1. Liontamer 2. A Man Walks Into A Bar 3. Milk Teeth 4. Cheapskate Lullabyes 5. His Wife
6. Big Boned Girl 7. Australia 8. I’m Cleaning Out My House (Unplugged) 9. The Last Laugh
10. Fifty Pound Father
UPC – 5060091890084
Label – Black Ink Music 2011
Catalog – BICD6
Release Date – 13 June 2011
Time – 40:31
I’m not sure anyone makes a record quite like Charlie Dore does in this modern age. Each one of her offerings is more a labour of love than a wish for commercial aspirations. Her own musical style is as eclectic as the artists who have cut her songs like Tina Turner, Celina Dion, Lisa Stansfield, Hayley Westernra and Status Quo. Charlie is therefore hard to classify but if a record store had a section named “class” that’s where CHEAPSKATE LULLABYES, her seventh album, released of her own label Black Ink Music, would be found.
This project marks her first collection of originals songs since the delightful 2006 album CUCKOO HILL. Dore has one solo cut and the remaining nine songs are composed with her long-time musical partner Julian Littman who as a multi-instrumentalist adds guitars, lap steel, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, drums, piano and backing vocals. Together they co-produce all the tracks which I read with interest in the liner note were recorded and mixed in Charlie’s room and Julian’s caravan!
If you were to pick at random from a quality box of chocolates and allow each one to very slowly melt in your mouth and savour the rich flavours then much the same can be said for this album. It demands several plays to allow the individual nuances to both surprise and be appreciated.
The CD, complete with a 16 page booklet with live photos and lyrics has a cover which has a creased and dog-eared finish like a well thumbed paperback book. The artwork is an etching by Edward Hopper (July 22, 1882 – May 15, 1967) a leading American realist painter of the inter-war period. Called “East Side Interior” (1922), a woman sits alone at a sowing machine with a baby carriage at her side. She’s lost in her own thoughts but something outside the window attracts her attention and stirs her imagination. Hopper’s work honed in on observational subject matter set in urban and rural locations and often would depict a person alone in an interior or exterior space thus capturing a sense of isolation, emptiness tinged with affection and apprehension. Hopper is quoted as saying “Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world”.
In a similar way the life of a songwriter follows that same path and the textures that are created on this musical canvas are indeed art.
The softly orchestral arrangement on opener ‘Liontamer’ brings to mind the music of Nick Drake. Its lyrics read like a lengthy bucket-list in a personal ad with lines like: “Need a warrior, An Adventurer, Need a sooth-sayer Not A demi-god”. Dore shows a desire to find a magical person who is strong, protective and someone she can connect with both on a physical and emotional scale. Does such a man exist? Growing weary and with a sense of realism she declares: “When all the time there you are” (see Glastonbury video)
The jazz flavoured and witty ‘A Man Walks Into A Bar’ tells a tale of a gullible individual vainly trying to wash away life’s troubles longing for a brighter future but seeing his life pass by in the bottom of a glass. In this musical cocktail vibes from The Beatles Sgt Pepper album get stirred in the mix.
Milk Teeth’ has both classical and Spanish overtones and speaks of a step-mother’s tribulations dealing with a difficult and demanding child. The track informs us the father is absent – “All you get is birthdays and weekends, I’m sorry kid” but she tries her best, cares and is sympathetic to the infant’s plight – “But I’m not the Queen or Cruella and I’m on your side..”
The gentle title cut is a softly lullaby depicting life in debt ridden low rent city apartment with discoloured ceilings where paint peels from the walls. Its female character, as she grows older, worries whether she will still be loved. The simple matter of her partner singing soft and deep wins her heart as they fall asleep together in the neon glow.
Hula Valley Orchestra members from Dore’s touring band Dudley Phillips (double bass) and Jake Walker (violin) feature on ‘His Wife’ a light-hearted number with a vintage-jazz feel. A mistress offers advice to other single ladies who might be tempted to tread similar bumpy ground. The years of waiting for her lover to end a sham marriage never materialize. Finally the penny drops and the alarm bells ring on another lonely birthday whilst looking at her card –“There go my bearing childbearing years”. With urgency she finds another guy and is thankful for it!
On ‘Big Boned Girl’, Charlie with lead and over-dubbed vocals creates her own child-like school choir accompanying herself and its latter part with Indian harmonium and Autoharp. The 10-year old in the photo stands tall with the teachers and in later years a mother offers heart to a daughter while her father rather mocks: “There’s fellows all round this world, Who’d rather have further to reach around”. Will the lad of her dreams ever return to win her heart of gold? Both tinged with humour and sadness it’s something of a theatrical piece. Dore’s past acting experience with improvisation classes at drama school and a member of a comedy club for 7-years at the Hurricane Club in London provided an antidote for her song writing skills.
The slow paced heartbreaker ‘Australia’ refers to a jilted lover or possibly the loss of a parent where the country is used in metaphorical terms. He might as well be on the other side of the world when all contact is broken. Although birthdays are forgotten she worries sometimes if his blues have vanished in open sun kissed skies or have been washed away by rain. She has finally let go of love but fondly remembers those big blue eyes. There’s a hint that he may have sadly departed beyond the blue horizon with the lines: Let my heart know you’re safe/ ‘Cause nothing’s gonna hurt you where you are / How could I wish you home.
The old-time rock-a-billy ‘I’m Cleaning Out My House’ with its Hawaiian modulations is given a new unplugged polish. Although it was always destined to appear on this album with its chord sequences and instrumentation it suited the formula of the 2009 THE HULA VALLEY SONGBOOK, a covers project drawing on favourites from the 1930’s originally recorded by artists such as Jimmie Rodgers and Al Bowlley. In this no-more-mister-nice-guy number anger is dispelled with a spot of spring cleaning. Those spiders had better run in clearing out the chaos of living but after a bad experience with love and a broken heart it’s an opportunity to dust oneself down and look to brighter tomorrows.
On the plaintive but beautiful ‘The Last Laugh’ with Charlie on piano a woman finds herself alone when intentional jokes, cruel words, play acting and unfaithfulness finally back-fire: All made up, my hook and line, Didn’t think I’d get caught.
Self penned by Dore the reflective, acoustic, folk-rinsed ‘Fifty Pound Father’ alludes to an orphan boy who is observed when reunited with his birth father. Hiding behind tearful masks they both feel guilt stricken when nerves are touched and scars of life are re-opened. The words ask questions – Are we making progress, would I know? Are we making ground, how will I know?
On a first play CHEAPSKATE LULLABYES is a little unfathomable but evolves into a highly listenable and entertaining affair. Charlie Dore is a modern day touch bearer for simple melody which will carry and live forever. With a summer release it’s an album prime for cherry-picking and would impress and bring forth smiles to dinner guests whilst having their deserts.

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