The Brit folk scene of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s was a deeper happening than a casual observer might suppose, and prime evidence is offered by the duo of Judy Dyble and Jackie McAuley. Borrowing John Peel’s nickname for his nanny, they called themselves Trader Horne and in 1970 cut a terrific LP for Pye Record’s underground subsidiary Dawn. Possessing acumen, range, and enthusiasm, Morning Way is out on vinyl, compact disc, and digital October 16 through Earth Recordings.
At a glance it would seem that Judy Dyble is uncommonly familiar with the precipice of fame. To begin, she was replaced in Fairport Convention by Sandy Denny before the group broke big (in context). But if overshadowed her contribution was far from negligible; there’s the sunshiny psych-folk of the debut single’s “If I Had a Ribbon Bow” plus two Joni Mitchell interpretations, “I Don’t Know Where I Stand” and “Chelsea Morning,” strengthening the eponymous first album. She also co-wrote the nifty instrumental “Portfolio” with Ashley Hutchings.
She’s further noted as a pioneer in multitasking, knitting scarves and dishcloths onstage while her bandmates took flight. Shortly thereafter she was out of the Fairport picture, and it was around this point that she guested on The Incredible String Band’s The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, lending her voice to “The Minotaur’s Song.”
Dyble’s second dalliance with wide recognition came in the prelude to King Crimson, specifically as a contributor to Giles, Giles, & Fripp. A handful of tracks on The Brondesbury Tapes carry her mark, most notably “I Talk to the Wind,” the alternative to Greg Lake additionally collected on A Young Person’s Guide to King Crimson. Just as interesting but significantly less retrospectively cited is her brief spot on “Ashes of the Empire/The End” from G.F. Fitz-Gerald’s Mouseproof.
But Trader Horne isn’t a one-person show. As a teen Jackie McAuley made the impactful acquaintance of a visiting Gene Vincent but his first major credit was the organ seat in Them circa 1965. His brother Pat was the drummer in the band and the gig’s prompt derailing resulted in two rival acts employing the same moniker. The McAuley’s Van Morrison-less Them morphed into The Belfast Gypsies; they waxed a few palatable 45s and one LP released on Sonet under the slyly opportunistic handle Them Belfast Gypsies.
McAuley may read as an odd fit for a Brit-folk situation, but as an Irishman he grew up in the midst of trad stuff; his love of US blues/R&B emerged later. And Morning Way ultimately benefits from its creator’s breadth of interest. “Jenny Mae” opens the record as Dyble’s harmonizing elevates McAuley’s warm lead and fleet coffeehouse fingerpicking. Deft accents of bowed strings, vibes, and hand percussion follow.
“Children of Oare” is a strummer with flutes riffing upon “We Three Kings of Orient Are” as non-disruptive layers of preexisting sounds underscore the experimental. A smartly constructed effort down to the interjected fragments of McAuley’s piano between the tunes, there are also unsurprising moments on Morning Way; “Three Rings for Eleven Kings” features harpsichord, flute and assumedly recorder by Dyble and exudes a definite Ren Faire vibe (apparently the title has something to do with Tolkien).
The courtly air continues in “Growing Man,” but “Down and Out Blues” (which many will recognize as “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”) delivers an early highlight, Dyble sauntering up to the mic stand like a hootenanny queen as McAuley wields his acoustic with authority. Adding a discerning wrinkle, Ray Elliot’s flute is as reminiscent of the Five Spot as the Gaslight.
“The Mixed up Kind” resonates as an attractively-odd slice of folk-pop largely due to its brilliantly-hued vocal duet; prior reissues have surely slain New Weird fans as the whole gets nicely enhanced by additional harpsichord and cathedral organ. Next, “Better than Today” extends the pop angle into fledgling singer-songwriter territory, McAuley the author of all but three of the entries here.
There are inherent folky traits (and progressive undercurrents) in Dyble’s work, however; the quality is even retained in the rainy day baroque (and unexpected bass-clarinet flourishes) of “In My Loneliness.” It’s followed by McAuley’s Morning Way standout, the pleasant singer-songwriter buoyancy of “Sheena,” an unabashedly crowd-rousing number capped with a truly gorgeous string arrangement.
“The Mutant” leads us into eclectic climes; it’s a bit similar to Traffic (or the embryonic Crimson) attempting a very loose late-night piano bar rewrite of “Tales of Brave Ulysses” as Roland Kirk drops by to throw a little flute zest into the recipe. The turn for the unusual is maintained in Dyble’s shape changing composition “Morning Way,” though it tidily settles into an anthemic tandem-sing accompanied by piano that’s mildly redolent of McCartney’s material from the period.
“Velvet to Atone” was co-written by Dyble with Martin Quittendon (of “Maggie May”), and it’s a fine showcase for her pipes and McAuley’s keyboard. Closing the LP’s sequence is an expansive blend of baroque organ and nature-folk joie de vivre, “Like that Never Was” utilizing yearning voices, a rattling tambourine, and a whole lot of strum, a quite pretty way to conclude the platter.
In a classy twist both sides of Trader Horne’s second single (Pye had previously matched “Sheena” with “Morning Way”) are included on the vinyl download and placed at the end of the CD. Both are worth the trouble; “Here Comes the Rain” hits like a slightly less eccentric Kevin Ayers from around Joy of a Toy, and “Goodbye Mercy Kelly” is a bit of Dylanesque business worthy of a b-side.
Shortly after Trader Horne’s dissolution Dawn released Jackie McAuley’s self-titled solo album to a lack of hubbub. He subsequently became a sideman to the king of skiffle Lonnie Donegan, an in-demand session guy and the instigator of Celtic rock outfit Poor Mouth. Dyble took a long hiatus but eventually returned to music with 2004’s Enchanted Garden.
She’s completed five since, and earlier this year the 3CD set Gathering the Threads (Fifty Years of Stuff) appeared, the first disc of which gets a vinyl pressing by Earth Recordings next month. The sounds she made with McAuley have been labeled as Brit-folk but in the end they transcend the tag; fairy-dust is present but preciousness is avoided. The playing onMorning Way is superb, the landscape multifaceted and the results still enticing 45 years later.
GRADED ON A CURVE:
FOLK RADIO 14th October 2015
Trader Horne – Morning Way
by HELEN GREGORY on 14 OCTOBER, 2015
Trader Horne was the name of a short-lived duo consisting of Judy Dyble (vocals, electric autoharp, piano) and Jackie McAuley (vocals, guitar, keyboards and all-round multi-instrumentalist) which came about in early 1969 before splitting up a year later, leaving a recorded legacy of one LP (Morning Way) and two singles to posterity. Over the years, the album has attained an almost legendary status and is considered by many to be one of the lost gems of the 1970s. Needless to say the combination of scarcity and desirability has inflated its secondhand price to the point where, even if you could find a copy for sale, you’d probably need an eye-wateringly large bank loan to even begin bidding for it. While this may be good for the financial sector, the downside is that the actual music – remember that? The reason why we buy records? – has, despite one CD reissue in 2008, remained largely unheard by a wider audience.
Thankfully, and to tie in with Trader Horne’s 45th anniversary, the good people at Earth Recordings have remastered and reissued Morning Way as both a limited edition red vinyl LP (including a high quality digital download) and an unlimited CD. The digital formats also include the band’s second and final single from 1970 as two bonus tracks so – finally! – we all get a chance to hear this long-lost treasure.
In terms of the recording techniques used, the first track ‘Jenny May’ sets the standard for much of the album; there’s a lot of sonic experimentation going on, notably with the way the vocals are set up: often, Jackie’s voice is panned hard into the right-hand channel and Judy’s to the left. Combined with Jackie’s fast, fingerstyle acoustic guitars and various instruments appearing for a few bars before disappearing the overall effect is initially quite disconcerting, but as the record progresses and one’s ears adjust, it all starts to seem quite natural. The production and recording values are, for the most part, firmly rooted in the joyous experimentation of late 1960s psychedelic folk music yet suit the song well.
Another distinct feature of the album is the use of short instrumentals to link the songs and, while the musical themes often seem to have little to do with the songs, they do add a quirky charm. The pieces on side one of the LP featured Jackie accompanying himself on celeste, flute and glockenspiel, while on side two the links were played by Judy on piano.
The melody from the Christmas carol ‘We Three Kings’ played on flutes and recorders comes and goes throughout ‘Children Of Oare’; with its descending riff and catchy hook it brings out a cheery pop sensibility. The lyrics, like much of the album, are something of a challenge to decipher but, in fairness, you could say this about a lot of music of the time. There’s some nice woodwind at the bridge (Ray Elliot?), ahead of a field recording of crashing waves before the vocals return; Jackie’s voice seems to have had an alarming amount of flanging applied, adding to the maritime theme even as you check your speakers are working properly.
‘Three Rings For Eleven Kings’ is a short instrumental comprising harpsichord and overdubbed flutes as it modulates effortlessly between keys to create an effect I can only describe as blissed-out, medieval psychedelia.
The lyrics of ‘Growing Man’ tell the tale of a rambling man (sung by Jackie) coming home to his waiting partner (sung by Judy) and in that respect draws on one of the more traditional folk music themes which inform the record. Judy’s singing is absolutely faultless and makes one wonder what might have been, had Fairport Convention decided against replacing her with Sandy Denny. Add in some unexpected but well-placed string arrangements and a strong pop sensibility and you have one of the album’s highlights.
Although credited as a traditional song arranged by Ray, ‘Down And Out Blues’ may well be better known as a reworking of the Prohibition era blues standard ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’, written by Jimmy Cox in 1923 and covered by a multitude of artists including Bessie Smith, Lead Belly, Nina Simone, Eric Clapton and even Jackie’s earlier band, Them. Trader Horne’s version is a nicely relaxed country blues which sticks to a relatively unfussy arrangement of strummed acoustic guitar, Judy’s honeyed voice front-and-centre – comfortably in a lower register than usual – and, as the song progresses, Ray’s flute solo which, on paper, shouldn’t work but does, before Jackie’s boogie-woogie piano joins in to top off the whole thing perfectly.
‘The Mixed Up Kind’ is a midtempo folk-rock stomper with Judy’s crystal voice high above a guitar and organ arrangement with some upfront harpsichord flourishes, carried by John Godfrey’s patient bass and Andy White’s steady drums. Again the 1960s psych-folk vibe runs through the song’s veins but the sugar-sweet harmonies on the chorus are a delight. It’s followed by the Latin-influenced ‘Better Than Today’ which would fit quite happily in a contemporary lounge music compilation. The chorus harmonies are pure 1960s folk revival while the flute solo makes you want to fling open the windows before sashaying down to Copacabana beach to work on your tan.
Lushly decorated with some lovely string arrangements, Ray’s sublime bass clarinet and another happily unhinged production, ‘In My Loneliness’nevertheless gives Judy a chance to shine – which she does, with a quiet confidence. If this track is an example of what she was capable of as a singer, I once again find myself wondering why she and the Fairports came to such an abrupt parting of the ways: she’s absolutely on point on this little gem of a tune.
Opening the second side of the vinyl LP and, as befits what was the A-side of the lead single from the album, ‘Sheena’ is unashamedly poppy, displaying a strong influence by the California sound so much in vogue in the late 1960s and is presented without the more idiosyncratic instrumentation found elsewhere. The downtempo ‘The Mutant’ returns to the more experimental side of things with Jackie’s voice panned hard left and a long way back in the mix although the fingerstyle acoustic guitar and breathy flutes sit well together.
The album’s title track ‘Morning Way’ was selected as the B-side to ‘Sheena’and opens with some tinkly reverbed electric piano sounds which would make a great sample for an ambient techno remix, before a plucked acoustic guitar arrives, followed by a descending riff driven by Judy’s piano. Jackie and Judy’s vocals again take full advantage of the stereo image in a very trippy lyric; Judy’s multitracked harmonies are, as ever, a joy to hear. This is the only song on the album credited solely to Judy as writer and is followed by ‘Velvet To Atone’, which is credited jointly to Judy and Steamhammer guitarist Martin Quittenton. It’s a solo piece – just Judy accompanying herself on piano and is a gently rippling composition which sounds as fresh as a daisy.
‘Luke That Never Was’ fades in on a slow, church organ drone with several multitracked Judys floating around the stereo image (Jackie, as usual, firmly in the right channel). I was going to say that the strummed acoustic guitar places the song firmly in the folk tradition, but on reflection, with lyrics which refer to “the toadstool people”, perhaps it’s more psychedelic-folk than trad. This is the last track on the second side of the vinyl and makes a nice, if slightly wide-eyed, way to end it but the CD and digital downloads include two further tracks, ‘Here Comes The Rain’ and ‘Goodbye Mercy Kelly’. These correspond to the non-album A and B-sides of the duo’s second single which was released shortly after the LP’s release. ‘Here Comes The Rain’ is a nice slice of summery pop with some gorgeous harmonies while ‘Goodbye Mercy Kelly’ is mellow 1960s psychedelia at its most delicate and it occurs to me that the two songs together would make a great reissue for the next Record Store Day.
On balance, I’d say that Morning Way deserves its reputation as one of the unsung musical treasures of the 1970s; although stylistically it’s very much ‘of its time’ there’s more than enough substance to carry some of its more ‘out there’ moments and the net result is a charming and magical album which still sounds fresh, with much to offer a new generation of listeners.
Review by: Helen Gregory
Euro-Rock Press Interview November 2016 by Tetsuo Uchida