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Hungry Blues

There’s something about a Northern accent that warms my cockles. I genuinely can’t think of a single thing that wouldn’t benefit from the addition of a salt of the earth type waxing lyrical. An outspoken local lad proclaiming “oooh bugger” certainly would have lightened the mood on the global downer that was 9/11, “proper watter” is how I would have preferred to hear BBC Look North’s weatherman Paul Hudson describe the true scale of 2004’s devastating tsunami, and the passing of Margaret Thatcher would have benefitted no end from the succinct summation of “abaat bloody time”.

The North has a distinct reputation for being a tad grim. If you’ve heard John Cooper Clarke’s homage to Salford being dead rubbish, ‘Evidently Chickentown’, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Even George Orwell noted the hard wrap afforded to the working poor of Lancashire in his book The Road To Wigan Pier, but the balmy tones of the southerly challenged makes all that bleakness seem trivial.

Aside from making me seem well read, the mention of Orwell brings us rather neatly to the topic at hand, Wigan-born bluesman John Fairhurst. The gritty North and the deep South are two bedfellows who on paper seem to have no relation to one another, as all bedfellows should. However, the melancholy and sadness of the blues seem like a perfect match for the disenfranchised working voices of the middle to top bit of the UK.

It’s that seemingly tenuous link that makes Fairhurst’s latest offering all the more special. Although a remarkably well-travelled man, his lyrics could quite easily be describing things closer to home. The descriptive journey through icy peaks in the sombre lullaby of ‘The Snow Lies Deep’ conjures images of my mum moaning about driving over the Pennines in winter. The tribal, ethereal loveliness of ‘Hungry Blues’ is punctuated by the memory of my grandad cracking open a tin of Pek® and informing me that ‘lunch’ was ready. But the proper Northern twang over the chipper, folky noodlings of ‘I Don’t Know’ is the biggest homely treat here.

The tagline “I don’t know where I’m going, but I know where I’ve been” may seem banal, but the ethos of home being a place of solace, however rubbish that home may be, is anything but. Cockles don’t get much toastier than this.