Alex Highton – Woodditton Wives Club
His latest album Woodditton Wives Club, loosely based on his own move from the city to the village of Woodditton, Cambridgeshire, is as English as, well, a visit to a Cambridgeshire village.
Like an aspiring Ray Davies the album charts Highton’s search for a Shangri-La away from the crime and loneliness of city life in rural Cambridgeshire. He even sings like Davies at times, but mostly in the folk tradition of Nick Drake or that of fellow Liverpudlian Paul McCartney.
Rob Young’s excellent study of British folk music Electric Eden is full of versions of Highton, who over the decades from Holst to Vaughn Williams to Richard Thompson and the Incredible String Band, searched for a quieter more traditional part of Britain away from the city. On the evidence of this album he is perhaps deserving of a mention in an updated version of the book. From instrumentation to songwriting to Highton’s endearing voice, this album is beautifully arranged.
Take one of our many highlights such as Stupid, its use of trumpets perfectly capture the spirit of The Kink’s village green as well as echo other more modern UK folk acts such as The Miserable Rich.
The Great Divide features some of the best guitar playing. Drake would have been proud to see his influence used so carefully. Towards the end of the album, with Highton firmly entrenched in country living, his voice and songwriting even seems calmer, more settled.
What Will You Do When They Break Your Heart Again? is probably my favourite, mainly due to its nod to Pentangle, including Danny Thompson-esque double bass and John Renbourne guitar moments.
Three years on from Kutcher’s recommendation on Twitter, which prompted 63,000 hits to his Myspace page in two days, Highton is still unknown. Underservingly so on this evidence. We may not host Hollywoord parties or have a bitter divorce dispute with Demi Moore, but our little voice singing his praises will have to do for now.
by Joe Lepper