Thirty Pounds of Bone - I Cannot Sing You Here, But for Songs of Where (3 stars)

Thirty Pounds of Bone - I Cannot Sing You Here, But for Songs of Where

Album exploring location and identity via travelling odes and upbeat celtic folk knees-ups


As you might suspect of an itinerant folk hoarder who takes his grisly nom de plume from the average weight of a dead man’s bones, Johnny Lamb appreciates the gravity of his songs. His third album, I Cannot Sing You Here … frames his original works and (mis)appropriated folklore within a conceptual paradigm of location and identity.

It explores past place, the place of heritage, the present place and the inbetween while traversing Shetland and Ireland, Cornwall and Kiel, taking in contributions from Hefner’s Darren Hayman, Le Reno Amps, Jen Macro (Something Beginning With L), Irish box player Seamus Harahan, and Laurence Collyer (The Diamond Family Archive) along the way.

The album’s upbeat celtic folk knees-ups, like touring anti-climax ‘The Streets I Staggered Down’ are reminiscent of The Decemberists or a wayfaring Pogues, but the album’s real charms come in its windswept folk dirges (‘Veesik for the Broch’ is a great, troubling opener which channels traditional Shetland song, propelled on a drone constructed by a squeezebox and a boat building machine), and its disorientating sea shanties.

Album highlight ‘The Ballad of Cootehill’ is an epic, gorgeous travelling ode to seeking one’s roots and losing the ground beneath us, and the first of a fine triumvirate of songs. ‘Mother This Land Won’t Hold Me’ begins as an a cappella Sean Nós ballad, waltzes into chamber-pop, then breaks down into beatific distortion, while ‘The Snow In Kiel’ is as glacial and heavenly as its title. It underscores the album’s complex fascination with our sense of identity, place and home. ‘I can’t speak, and I’m not anywhere, I wish that I would sleep,’ Lamb beseeches as he speeds through Western European flatlands, catching glimpses of memories, people, places, land. ‘They pass me by,’ he sadly sings, yet little does. This is an often-lovely record about where we belong, and where we do not.

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