Only A Wingbeat Away is a 2020 album recently released by Steve and Julie Wigley. They are a familiar sight on the Midlands Circuit so I already knew that they were confident performers and assured and competent musicians. Having sat near the two of them at various Folk Clubs,seeing them perform, or watching them myself from up on a stage,I also already knew that they had fine voices. Here they combine in nice harmonies, well delivered.
The album also reiterates the fact that between them, Julie and Steve produce fine original material. Julie has worked hard on penning these songs. The end result is an earnest and thoughtfully written collection of gently observed sound pictures. Best epitomised by "Knights of The Road," celebrating the lives of two elderly gentlemen cyclists. They are the antithesis of those sweating Lycra clad pelotons of sweating, designer clothed pedal bullies who emerge like moths from a chrysalis each spring to clog up country byways.
"The Form" is also pretty well unique in that it is a song dedicated to a bench. It would make any anthology of rustic seating! It has plenty of contemporary references which show that Julie can tackle modern themes too. Banksy and the Tate Modern get a mention and there are some witty rhyme schemes with a Victoria Wood/Sally Ironmonger flavour to them such as "rogueish knaves armed with buckets and spades," or "room to spare for at least three derrieres."
"Like a Cinnabar," is clever. On one level it is entertainment for lepidopterists such as Bob Brooker and myself.. On another it is an ironic comment on dressy folk parading on an elevated stage. It works both ways. A few weeks after my mum died, I was singing on a Folk stage,midwinter,when a beautiful Red Admiral butterfly emerged from the darkness out of nowhere and settled softly on my cheek. Those in the audience who knew my mum,and her avowal to be reincarnated after her funeral as a butterfly,just held their breath.
Julie is a modern writer and the duo are an ambitious team prepared to give anything a go. So included on this set list are a sea shanty,a "traditional" folk song,a gentle protest song and a tribute to the R.N.L.I.. And if that wasn't enough ground covered,"Prince of Suburbia" is about pigeons. Not the first song about them-artistes as diverse as Duncan McFarlane and Cyndi Lauper have both previously done homage too.
The overall effect is that Only a Wingbeat Away is homely without being schmaltzy, reflective without being sanctimonious,and affectionate without being patronising. It is perhaps most essentially, relevant. In that it deals with themes and subjects anyone can relate to.
The watch case is nicely produced with some attractive art work,(pictures by Steve-talented guy!) Sleeve notes on songs are included in a booklet insertwith track listings and timings included,and a list of musicians credited. (All this may seem obvious but not all artistes think to include this). Julie plays guitar and accordion,Steve plays guitar and additional accompaniment is added by Sarah Matthews (strings) and Richard Collins (bass and percussion). Currently it can be obtained by contacting Julie via Facebook,or just contact me and I'll pass your query on.