Hailing from Southampton, Richard Craine has been an integral part of the folk scene there, in Leicester, and in London, appearing on the BBC and opening for acts like Jane Taylor. His sound is very much of the 60s and 70s, but he chose the segment of the era that preferred to establish a rhythm and then stick with it, sometimes to detriment, as seen on several songs here. Ashley Hutchings, Keith Christmas, and some of the earlier Brit folkers were also guilty of this, managing to attain to a certain level of recognition but no further. Even Pete Sinfield experienced the same when he tried soloing...quickly backing away from it again.
On the other hand, the live Mistrust, Mistreatment, and Misunderstanding gets up and kicks around, much to the enthusiasm of the crowd appreciative of the lusty recital. Then the duet with Mirielle Mathlener on One of Those Lies strips back down in a melodic counterplay. It, however, suffers from what almost all the cuts bask in to one degree or another: rather limp lyrics. Folk, after all, gained much of its fame in the 60s due to the protestative and clever poetics informing us of mental muscle beneath the guitars and voices. Nonetheless, the song's melody is quite attractive and makes up for much.
Ultimately, The Essence of My Life suffers because Craine himself isn't fired up. He's strumming the chords mostly in lackluster fashion and reciting lyrics that come neither from heart nor gut, mainly just clicées and banalities. When he digs much deeper into his own psyche is when he'll come into his powers. Everything else is sitting there waiting for it, listless, unexploited, waiting to catch a spark. In fact, if the whole thing sounded like the closer, Jekyll and Hyde, a rocker invigorated by Ellie Morgan's commanding electric guitar, this would've been a much different review.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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