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Darren Hayman - Essex Arms

It’s the beauty of something that seems so bereft of any.

Folk music has often meant the nice twee awfulness of the countryside, or the placid love life of the average Yorkshireman. However, Darren Hayman isn’t from Yorkshire. He doesn’t drink ale, doesn’t smoke a pipe, and probably doesn’t have a wispy beard. I bet he doesn’t even own a cardigan. And that’s because he’s from my beautiful home county Essex, the setting for ‘Essex Arms’, the second in a trilogy of albums based around that most wonderfully shit of counties

The other thing about folk is it glamorises the sort of life that leads to poor heating, no hot water and intermittent electricity. No, Darren doesn’t subscribe to the glamorisation of Essex either - he tells us every nitty detail; he revels in what makes Essex Essex (that being the litter, the graffiti on every standing surface and our famous easy virtues). And by doing this he shows us what the county is; what it’s is about - this is an exposé as much as it is an album.

And because of that, the natural, almost gonzo style of lyrical genius that Hayman is, that we get a great album. I quite like lyrics in a way, but normally for me I go all out for the music and how it makes me feel. The music here is, by and large, average. But that doesn’t matter when every moment pushes the unabashed, sublimely absurd lyrics in our collective face and forces our attention on them, and them alone.

Even the album cover itself gives us a story. The abandoned lean to or shelter, out of any fashion, scrawled on, with the grey skies and foggy lens conjuring up so many memories of my Essex, the Essex with Basildon facelifts, the wasteland that calls itself Tilbury, the mess of roundabouts and litter that is Harlow (subject of Hayman’s first in this triptych). But it’s nostalgia, it’s positive memories. It’s the beauty of something that seems so bereft of any.

What we are gifted here is an album that presents itself as a folk record, but winds up as an answer to the New York anti folk scene; what we have in Darren Hayman is Essex’s answer to Jeffery Lewis.

Tags: Darren Hayman, Reviews, Album Reviews

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