Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10
The North East of England is one that for many years, decades, had the same sense of enforced isolation thrust upon it as cities such as Liverpool by the alleged powers that be down in the Westminster Village; if it produced something viable, if it contributed to society by being something other than suits and great swathes of money that could be generated at the pressing of an electronic key, then to those entrenched inside the Palace of Westminster, it held no significance.
The stories of the brave men who endured the Jarrow March, of the people who built the ships that sailed the world, who dug deep like their cousins in Yorkshire, Wales and all manner of places in search for the raw materials to keep the fires of Britain going during the war, this was the Hard Ground they fought for, to have employment, to seek better lives whilst all the time wrecking their health through the power of coal dust and government insincerity infecting their lungs and sapping their strength.
It is in these and other members of the hardy North East population that The Rachel Hamer Band’s debut album, Hard Ground, offers more than a casual but much loved insight into the world on the area close by the North Sea; it is a charting of a social history at times ignored, at others forgotten by those who have found that their lives are more important than the society at large.
Each piece of coal, each mine worked, each life lost, each night washing the black engrained dust mixed with sweat off the bodies, this is the story of a society that gave, the people that lived around them, the despair, the hardship and the bravery that went hand in hand, this is the Hard Ground won, in many way arguably more important than some of the fighting that took place over foreign fields, yet somehow lost in time like the names of those who gave their lives in pursuit of coal.
Rachel Hamer really tackles the subjects at hand with sensitivity and flair, not one to mince her feelings, she and the band take songs such as The Digging Song, Bevan Boys, the sensational Alice White, Will Jobling and West Virginia into the open arena and let them breathe fresh uncluttered air, the sea breeze casting its life ahead of those who live underground and giving us all a reason to remember the hardship endured so we could all keep warm.
A beautifully entrancing Folk album, one that captures the sense of loss of those who have been forgotten by great swathes of the country, Hard Ground is there to be dug.
Ian D. Hall