Vikki Clayton at the Pagan
Federation Conference in Croydon
(21 November 1998)
and at the Hexagon in Reading
(1 December 1998)

Movers & Shakers
(A New Day Records, 1998)

Vikki Clayton has long been a favourite of mine, after seeing her several years ago at Fairport Convention's annual Cropredy bash, so I was highly delighted to discover she was one of the guests for the evening concert after the Pagan Federation's conference. I was even more pleased to meet Vikki as I was buying the new CD Movers & Shakers, thus obtaining an autograph, too. The gig largely consisted of numbers from the CD, so consider this a joint review (though I must admit, a week later, largely based on listening to the CD again and again).

The band for the gig were Vikki Clayton on vocals and acoustic guitars (William and Archie), Fred "Thelonius" Baker on bass and electric guitars, Chris Conway on almost everything and Clive Bunker on drums. These, and various others from the general Fairport/Tull crowd, turn up in various places on the album.

Vikki has always impressed me as a talented performer, both in her vocal technique and her guitar playing. To quote Gordon Giltrap, who produced her 1990 album Midsummer Cushion, "Vikka Clayton is one if this country's finest interpreters of Traditional and Contemporary song, having a very pure voice and formidable guitar technique. Bearing this in mind I've taken a very 'natural' approach to the production, letting Vikki's vocals and guitar speak for themselves (if you'll excuse the pun)." This was a description I completely agreed with at the time, and eight years later, I have yet to see any reason to disagree.

This album contains a number of contemporary songs, mostly written by Vikki, some by Chris Conway, and a couple of traditional songs arranged by Vikki. Arrangments are mixed -- folky, some almost poppy, some vaguely jazzy, but all hugely enjoyable. I would have preferred a few more numbers to be just Vikki and guitar, but then I have plenty of other recordings that give me that. Highlights for me were:

"Pilgrim" (Clayton), a song of a love that has been lost to a higher cause: "Your eyes are very wild, they're shining far too brightly / Your jealous gods are calling you, way up on the mountain / Go hear the zealous words of truth, your spiritual fountain."

"Ten Years" (Conway), a song about the sort of nostalgia and wondering that is induced by looking at old photographs -- a feeling I'm sure we all know too well.

"I Want Something" (Conway) -- allegedly inspired by a midnight trip to the refrigerator, but somehow evokes that feeling that everybody gets at some point of their lives where they want something different, but can't quite identify what it is they want: "I want something, I want something / I want something don't know what it is / That something could be anything / That'll stop me feeling like this" I couldn't agree more. This song is one of the reasons this CD hasn't spent a huge amount of time out of the player.

The latter part of the album is more traditional material, arranged and updated by Vikki -- songs like "My Bonny Light Horseman" and "Sir Hugh of Lincoln" -- the sort of thing that always attracts me on folk albums, finishing up with the haunting "Beguiled (The Beguiling of Merlin)," which ends the album in a way that has you reaching for the start button.

If you haven't come across Vikki Clayton, then go find some and listen to this CD. If you have already have heard her on other albums, this one has maybe more musical arrangements than earlier albums, but is still definitely worth adding to your collection.

For further info, check out this website.

[ by Ian Walden ]