Okay: full disclosure first. Norman Lamont is a friend of mine, and I was in at the ground floor of the creation of the title track of this album, as I’ve blogged about previously, as was Gerry Callaghan, who I met first at that Bridge of Orchy weekend. The next fun creative thing I’ve got on my calendar is meeting up with them both to discuss a mutual project – of which more soon, I hope.
Having said that, having the inside track on how it came to be in its current form may be an advantage here, so bear with me.
Hot on the heels of Norman’s last album, In Another Life, the original plan – at least on the part of Gerry, Norman’s producer, was an ‘acoustic album.’ By that I’m pretty sure he meant an album of Norman’s acoustic guitar and voice: as it turned out, it wasn’t to turn out that way.
Nevertheless, the contrast between this and Norman’s last album, In Another Life, is quite strong. In Another Life was a full band abum, involving all of the Heaven Sent, as well as many, many more musicians – some of the songs had a horn section, for goodness sake!
On Ten Objects, by comparison, the instrumentation is relatively sparse: an oboe and a cor anglais here, a harmonica or a harmonium there. On some of the tracks at least, that additional colour is indispensable: I can’t imagine, for example, ‘Makes Sense to Me,’ without Toby Wilson’s gorgeous, keening, pedal steel guitar. For those of you, like me, who grew up distrustful of the lashings of pedal steel lavished on old-fashioned, rhinestone-studded, Country with a capital C songs, its subtle use here is especially welcome. I want that guy’s number, Norman!
‘Makes Sense to Me’ is new, to me at least, and perhaps if it had been acoustic guitar only I would have loved it as much as the strong, open-hearted opener to the album. Elsewhere, however, older songs are given fresh treatments. ‘Anniversary,’ which I first picked up in its incarnation on All the Time in Heaven, was apparently originally an ‘acoustic, finger-picky’ version until it got the more atmospheric treatment on that previous album. Here it goes back towards its earlier incarnation, with the crucial addition of Tricia Thom’s harmonies, and the aforementioned oboe and cor anglais giving additional adornment. When Norman and Tricia sing together – as they did at the album launch a week past Thursday – hairs go up on the back of this reviewer’s neck.
No surprise, then, that another of my favourite tracks is the other one that feature’s Tricia’s vocals, ‘Too Many Nights from the Sea.’ A slow, gospelly blues, powered only by James Whyte’s gentle piano, it’s lovely.
I should have said already that Gerry’s engineering and production is absolutely crystalline, no mean feat when dealing with the range of acoustic instruments on display here. And knowing Gerry, that’ll be the result of many hours of attention to detail.
I’m not going to go through every track on the album, but the other highlight for me is ‘Don’t Ask Me,’ another piano-led song of melancholy, with cello from Sarah Whiteside adding warmth and tone.
Most of all, though, the other tracks cluster thematically around the song that was the inspiration for the album, ‘Story of a Love in Ten Objects.’ For anyone that’s experienced the bereavement of someone close – which could, of course, include relationship breakdown – there’s that instant recognition: what on earth to do with all the stuff? Most of us would profess to having no love, or need, for material things. However, when those things belonged to the person who’s departed, they come freighted with meaning, even if they’re an ugly candlestick an uncle made.
I think this is one of my favourites of Norman’s albums, and I’ll stick my neck out further – I don’t believe the songs needed any more than the instrumentation they got. Having said that, I could definitely imagine a couple with a full band behind them, so I don’t know … check out the album here … I can thoroughly recommend the extra goodies you get with the De Luxe Edition…
Or, if you’re stuck for a Xmas pressie for a Lamont lover, there’s this rather fine pictorial representation of his ‘Ballad of Bob Dylan’!