Eric Bogle,
(Greentrax, 1993)

Eric Bogle is the folk troubadour of our time. He writes songs that have a story to tell, and he tells them with a combination of wit, melody and often heartbreaking description.

We are all familiar with "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" and "The Green Fields of France," which were hits for various singers. These are excellent songs and they tell very real stories, but Bogle has other tales to relate.

Mirrors opens with a song written in the early 1990s that is perhaps more relevant today. "Refugee" contains lines like "in the dust and heat the women queue for hours for handouts of rice or maize or flour. And old people die nearly every day, turn their faces to the wall and slip away." How many such people are still queuing and dying over a decade later?

He also has a go at the aficionados of the folk boom of the 1990s when anyone with two hands and the price of a guitar thought they were God's gift to the folk scene and any member of the opposite sex. "Plastic Paddy" uses almost every song title from the Aran sweater brigade repertoire: "He's desecrated the Holy Ground, ripped apart the Black Velvet Band and sunk The Irish Rover with all hands." Again it is a funny song but with more than an ounce of truth.

"Welcome Home" reminds us not only of the heartbreak of war but of the fact that not only the U.S. had troops fighting in Vietnam. It also reveals the unseen casualties of war, those whose minds are destroyed and those who are left to cope. "Or where hate is muddy quicksand, love is tempered steel, Annie waited for his wounds to heal." "Somewhere in America" recalls the loneliness of life on the road for a singer as he lives away from wife and family.

Listening again to this album I am enjoying the songs but there is a very real sadness that comes when you look at the notes and why he wrote them. Ten years later they could all be written again.

"At Risk" was written about the physical and sexual abuse of children. "Never Again" was about the concentration camps of World War II. "Mirrors" reflects on the thousands of "street kids" killed or dying every year. "Don't You Worry About That" is a tale of inflation and recession.

Maybe it is time for this CD to be repackaged and re-issued in the 21st century, maybe then someone will listen to the folksinger. Then again, maybe -- they never listened before.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 2 November 2002

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