thu 25/07/2024

CD: Jim Causley & Luke Thompson - The Clay Hymnal | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jim Causley & Luke Thompson - The Clay Hymnal

CD: Jim Causley & Luke Thompson - The Clay Hymnal

The Great Cornish poet set to music

The Clay Hymnal: The Poems of Jack Clemo

Devonian singer and accordionist Jim Causley released Cyprus Well, settings of his relative Charles Causley's poems, in 2013. What may be his finest album to date, Forgotten Kingdom, came early this year, and now he has released a second album of poems, this time by the great 20th century Cornish poet Jack Clemo.

It's part of a commission from the Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival, set to music in collaboration with Cornish writer and Clemo specialist Luke Thompson, and with a band including fiddler Richard Tretheway, dulcimer player Kerensa Wright and a legend of traditional Cornish music, Neil Davey, on bazouki.

While Charles Causley’s poems quite easily render themselves habitable for song – for folk-song forms in particular – Clemo’s muscular, jagged verse, beset as it is with trip-wires of rhyme and rhythm alongside the more regular meters (in the likes of “The Harassed Preacher”), is a more complex and challenging proposition. Clemo, whose Selected Poems was published by Enitharmon last year, often uses rhyme internally and externally, but the spiky angularity of his forms and the hewn, clay-clagged nature of his poetic vision means that conventional settings are likely to fall at the first few fences.

What Causley does is stretch and release the music to reflect the poetry’s elasticity and breadth, delicately impressionistic at times, particularly in Luke Thompson’s spoken word pieces, elsewhere emphatic with pump organ and a local school choir. His accordion work is as fine as you’d expect, and his voice and piano on the powerfully stark song-poem “Sufficiency” makes it this album’s standout performance. The Clay Hymnal is a brave, experimental demonstration of his talents.


What Causley does is stretch and release the music to reflect the poetry’s elasticity and breadth


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters