There’s a lot of anger in the world at the moment. Divisiveness is running amok and unfettered. There is shouting and screaming. An unwillingness to accept another’s point of view. It’s times we’ve seen before; whether that be Thatcher’s Britain of the 1980’s or the post war years and the growth of the teenager. And as in those previous times one of the results has always been an increase in the music of protest and message, a pattern that is repeating itself as we prepare for the third decade of the 21st century.
Often the music we are exposed to is, as expected from something driven by anger, becomes as much a contributor to the cacophony of white noise as any antidote to the world that inspires it. Almost as if it wants to contribute to the destruction, to become a burning to the ashes from which a phoenix of new hope can rise. However, on occasion, there is a shining beacon of hope of a different way. Music that opposed to destroying everything around it wishes to be a mirror to the beauty and optimism that can be found.
That music comes from people who understand the importance of the future. As in the counter culture of the 1960’s when Graham Nash wrote ‘Teach Your Children’ for the CSN & Y album Deja Vu, the best protest music always has an element of education, of speaking to the children and showing them the way forward. And this is something, with her 16th studio album Small World Turning, achieved by Thea Gilmore.
This album plays as a lesson to Gilmore’s own children, particularly the song for her young son as he moves to ‘big’ school; ‘Don’t Dim Your Light For Anyone’, which is as beautiful a song as is likely to be released this year, is just the best advice that could ever be given to a young person making big steps in life. And this theme is repeated through out the album, bookmarked as it is by lullaby’s, the idea that the world is a hard, hard place, but one which can be negotiated with some kindness in your heart and optimism in the soul provided the lesson is learn’t early enough.
That’s not to say that Gilmore doesn’t give full vent to her anger on occasions. Songs such as ‘The Revisionist’ and ‘Blowback’ take aim at fully deserving targets and doesn’t miss with it’s vitriolic and righteous condemnation of populist’s inspiring hatred amongst people who should be looking out for each other. But, like Woody Guthrie when he told the fascists they were bound to lose, Gilmore provides the evidence as to why goodness will eventually win the day. Like the Cutteslowe Wall, a moment of recent history as Gilmore grew up in Oxford, those who seek to sow division and build walls will be brought down and decency will prevail.
Small World Turning is a shining light of optimism in a world of darkness. A hope for the future because of Gilmore’s ability to educate and to see through the bullshit that we are fed. A beautiful message presented in tandem with musicianship of the highest order; the album features Gilmore’s husband Nigel Stonier, Cara Dillon, Seth and Sam Lakeman, Ciaran Algar as well as the core of Matt Owens bass and Michael Blair who plays percussion. Music that wraps the message given in a velvet glove that makes it a joy to listen to and heightens the experience and lessons being given. Small World Turning is an album to lead the way into the 2020’s.