As soon as The Doctrine Of Song begins, opening track ‘Compliance‘ hurtles at you like a thunderball, akin to All About Eve‘s Julianne Regan being backed by Placebo, it’s obvious that Tracey Browne is not “just another folk singer” despite her connections to the celebrated British songwriter/performer Thea Gilmore.
Browne is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist whose skills have been used to great effect by Gilmore in the past, both on record and in a live capacity, but this release, her second solo full length record, proves that she has an ability to write extremely palatable tunes that cannot be simply compartmentalised into the ‘folk’ freezer; there are more pieces to her own personal chess set than that.
For instance, ‘Mucho Gusto‘ is very much steeped in the world of Zervas And Pepper, whereas ‘As Far As The Heart Can See‘ has that poppier, Tango In The Night era Fleetwood Mac feel to it. The folk is never too far away, however, and clearly she holds the genre close to her heart.
One of the most striking things about The Doctrine Of Song is the vibrant imagery that is summoned up by Browne’s sometimes quite magnificent lyrical prowess. “Empty pages and full, full hearts / New year, new start / Lines of ink and stories to tell / Pack your bags and wish me well,” she sings, seeming to be delivering herself a pep talk as she continues into the chorus: “And hit the road running, and come back for more / hit the road running, knock on every door / you don’t need permission, you don’t need to hide / just be yourself, be brave and be kind.” It’s a great lyric, even if the latter part of it is suspiciously similar melodically to Sting‘s ‘An Englishman In New York‘ (“be yourself, no matter what they say“).
Songs like ‘The Lauded Gun‘, which Browne sings with a real sense of yearning, show her addressing the political situation at home and elsewhere and reassuring us that “the heartless man won’t win.” I wish I shared her optimism, but we can all hold on to that hope, at least. As she points out in the final words of this enjoyable long player: “When 3,000 children are turned away / When doctors down tools over safety and pay / When 27 years’ worth of voices are raised, singing You’ll Never Walk Alone / It’s time to go.”
You can’t really argue with that, can you?
The independently released The Doctrine Of Song is out now.