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Maurice Dickson “A Year In The Life” Mo Music 006CD
You’d have thought that, after reviewing records for what sometimes seems like a hundred years, I’d be familiar with the work of Maurice Dickson. After all, this is his sixth album and he’s appeared at countless folk festivals as far apart as Sidmouth and Arran and spent many years playing folk and blues clubs throughout the land. Yet, this excellent CD is my introduction to his talent.
He’s a singer-songwriter with a style somewhere between folk and blues, with, perhaps, just a dash of country. At times he reminded me of a more huskier voiced version of Peter Sarstedt and, although, on the album, his guitar playing is augmented by a host of other fine musicians, I can quite see why his solo performances go down so well.
His songs are well crafted in a variety of styles and with memorable tunes – something that can’t often be said about many singer-songwriters. The recording quality is excellent and the album is professionally packaged. An object lesson for anyone else thinking of producing their own CD. (JM)
Diggin’ The Roots – with Steve McCullough Crane & Steve Ward
Northern Ireland born Maurice Dickson has been writing and performing since the mid 70s and his new album, ‘A Year in the Life’ (PRS) is the sixth in a recording career which began in 1992.
The gentle, mainly acoustic arrangements are the perfect backdrop for some quality songs which are performed in true singer/songwriter style with Dickson’s descriptive and thoughtful lyrics catching the ear time and time again.
His Irish roots surface in much of the instrumentation and make for an album which is both reflective and uplifting and has tremendous depth, thanks to the sheer quality of the song writing and performance.
Maurice Dickson – Minstrel With a Message
Each day several CDs turn up at the Music Maker office, which we listen to whilst putting the magazine together. Occasionally there’s one that stops the work and silences the office babble and a CD entitled A Year in the Life of Maurice Dickson was one such Album. Was this Van Morrison or Rod Stewart in gentle mode with some great new tunes and superb backing I enquired? No it’s Maurice Dickson. Maurice who? I had to find out more and a few telephone calls had soon located him at a friend’s den in Cumbria where he actually admitted living out of his Camper van as he toured the clubs in the North of England and Scotland when not has his base in Devon.
Belfast born Maurice Dickson is an errant Irish minstrel with a peace message. Two of the most poignant tracks are Arabian influenced instrumentals on his latest CD. “The Road to Basra” (part 1 + part 2) is evidence of his commitment to peace in Iraq and on antiwar stance.
I asked Maurice how he had managed to survive; I will let him tell the story himself:
“I had been touring for nine months a year for seven years, every year things would get better but too slow I thought, so I felt I should try and change things. I never had the time or the money to promote myself, so I thought about it for a while and decided to make a big change and take a risk. I needed time off the road to make it work, I had enough songs for another CD, the last one was a live album and sold really well and still does but I wanted to a production so I could promote myself as a song writer, I also wanted to produce the songs in a way that would be true to myself and also have enough on there to make it acceptable for air play. I also wanted them to be heard by a wider audience, “Cold blows the Wind” on a personal level, I wanted it to reach more people. After more thought, I decided to re-mortgage my house to give me the capital I needed, I then bought some recording gear, moved into a nice place in the country and started work. I played all the instruments myself at that point and spent two months there I then went back home and did a good bit in my living room. I got Siobhan Skates in to do the backing vocals and I worked for about another month until I had most of what I needed. I moved out and rented the house to pay the loan. I had been offered a great deal in a studio in Wales so I took the lot over there and moved into the studio. Its in the middle of the Brecon Beacons and is four miles from the nearest house, so it was a perfect place to work and an absolutely beautiful place and area. I transferred the tracks onto Soundscape so I could use the full studio set up and started work again. I booked an arranger and a string section to add to the synth strings I had put down, Alan Cooper for some extra violin, and my friend Ian Briggs to play harmonica. Paula, the string arranger played double bass on Baby Blue, and I left the rest of the bass parts as I had recorded them in Ireland. I had the piano re-done by Steve, some extra percussion, Herb and Keith came and added their voices on two tracks and apart from 10-18 hours a day for two months mixing and re-recording three songs and writing two, it was all done! I got Adel to take some photos around the lake, Adel and her husband own the studio and Alan the violin player mucked around with one of the shots on the computer and came up with the cover. I then flew back to Ireland to do the artwork, as I wanted to use the same guys that did the last two CDs. Andrew put that all back together for me and I flew back to England – did a couple of re-mixes, and booked it in to a master two weeks later. My friend Ian Briggs offered me a place to stay with him and his wife Margaret until I get a new place; this had been planned from the beginning. Ian tours with me a fair bit and we have worked together for about 11 years and so that was a great help as I would have a place to stay until I get somewhere of my own again, so I moved down to Devon, all the gear again and all I own, in the van again!!”
He released “Land of Dreams” in 1992, “Where Eagles Fly” in 1994, “Country Pickin’ Blues – Live” in 1996, “The Dreamer” in 1998, “The Jesters Dance – Live” in 2001, and now, in 2004 he releases his sixth album “A Year In The Life”.
The new album was recorded in Wales in the middle of the Brecon Beacons four miles from the nearest house – an ideal place to work. As a singer songwriter, Maurice chooses the ground between folk and country yet has his own unique style which sometimes crosses over into the mainstream. Maurice has a great ear for melodies and his consummate guitar technique allows his songs to be presented in an open, honest, personable way, his music tugging at the emotions.
In support of the new album, “A Year In The Life”, Maurice will be touring the UK in October and following that may be a date in London.
Northern Ireland’s Maurice Dickson has been writing and performing his songs for almost 30 years. He has played in rock and blues bands around Belfast before forming his own band in 1976. Three years later he turned professional and continued to learn his trade in Europe and North Africa absorbing the cultures and the rhythms. ‘A Year In The Life’ features twelve of Dickson’s ballades, finely crafted and performed by a voice that is both warm and tender. Maurice is the only musician; playing just whistle and synths he just calls on the backing vocals of Herbie Hancock, Keith Thomson and Matt Coldrick. Though the subject matter may be serious, sometimes extremely, the album is very relaxing. Check out ‘Baby Blue’, ‘War paint and Feathers’, ‘Texas Pride’ and ‘Road to Basra’ (parts one and two). www.mauricedickson.com
A Year In The Life Mo Music MO 006CD
BABY BLUE; COLD BLOWS THE WIND; THE GYPSY QUEEN; IN YOUR COMPANY; LADY OF LOVE; WAR PAINT AND FEATHERS; SPREAD YOUR WINGS; TEXAS PRIDE; THE ROAD TO BASRA; SPIRIT OF THE MUSIC; THE JOURNEY
UK singer-songwriter Maurice Dickson blends folk and country in a well thought out manner, giving both parties something to hook onto, the latter will I’m sure, gravitate to the splendid mando-gazooki, fiddle and harmony vocals (Siobhan Skates) warmed ‘Spread Your Wings’, where the song builds up a good head of steam. ‘Texas Pride’, the next song on the album it continues on a positive note – suggesting a Steve Earle influence. It works hard too (I think the Texan would also approve of Dickson’s two instrumentals entitled, ‘The Road To Basra’ 1 and 2). Other notable songs included the spare ‘The Journey’, as his work boasts a likeness to the music of Richard Shindell, the melancholy ‘Baby Blue’ and with more mando-gazooki and sweet harmonies – ‘In Your Company’, demonstrating a completely focussed style of singing. These tracks alone suggesting Maurice Dickson is an artist worth checking out, on disk and live.
“A CD that stopped the work and silenced the office babble”
Music Maker Magazine
“Gutsy and moving. Personal yet universal…with a sincerity which is a hallmark of all he does.”
“A genius performer with amazing stage presence and personality.”
Stonehaven Folk Festival
“Maurice Dickson is one of those virtuoso artists who has never achieved super-stardom but whose amazing talent is recognised by anyone who has ever heard him play.”
“One of the most talented solo artists on the festival circuit today”. “Held the audience spellbound and made his guitar talk.”
Arran Folk Festival
“If you only discover one singer songwriter this year make it Maurice Dickson – you wont regret it”
(Irish World, London)
“Lifts you up, throws you down and spins you round in the way only a seasoned pro can.”
(Scotland on Sunday)