Mandy Bingham – Bury Me Deep
Just over fifty years ago, Mandy Bingham’s father released a sixties classic anthem. ‘The Days Of Pearly Spencer’ was released on 6th October 1967.
A huge hit in Europe, it is etched in the memories of everyone from that generation and the next. The song got another chance to shine when Marc Almond made it a top five hit in 1992.
Lest such a work of folk mastery is left on the shelf, to fade from our collective memory, it is right and proper that the song should get a further airing, and that the natural heir, so to speak, is Mandy Bingham.
It is the final track on her new album ‘Bury Me Deep’. The reason I start this review at the end is simply this – her version is absolutely and utterly outstanding.
As poignant as it ever was, oddly it is as fitting for these politically and socially errant days, as it was fifty years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
David McWilliams was making a powerful statement that is as relevant in 2017 as it was in 1967. My wish is that Mandy’s beautiful and beguiling interpretation becomes a major hit, gets air-time everywhere for, God knows, this track deserves it. To borrow from King Lear:
The wheel has turned full circle.
The other nine tracks on ‘Bury Me Deep’ are equally compelling. These are incredibly clever and carefully crafted songs.
She is not just an exceptional lyricist, her voice is crystal clear and as pure as you might ever hear. Yet, what makes each song even more intriguing is that such sweet melodies betray complex themes of disenchantment, disappointment, denial, and betrayal.
The production throughout is exceptional. Listen most carefully; this album has been put together very, very cleverly with credit due to Michael Mormecha at Millbank Studios. The talented multi-instrumentalist also features throughout on percussion, keyboard, and various guitars.
The haunting harmonies give the album an exquisitely sixties feel with Edele McMahon and Janet Henry featured. In fact, Mandy’s daughter Lola is a backing vocalist on ‘The Days Of Pearly Spencer’. That’s three generations linked to one song.
Listen out for the lap steel guitar – an additional familial dimension therein for its Mandy’s musician husband Graham Bingham. However,0 it’s not nepotism at work at all.
Reading the credits on the album cover shows just how well supported Mandy is by the music fraternity in Northern Ireland. In the making of her masterpiece, two of my favourite songwriters, Anthony Toner and Stephen Scullion, lend a hand, along with Bob Speers and Roy Fullerton.
A special mention too to the outstanding Arco String Quartet. The cello caught my ear. It weaves here and there, a character in its own right, aching and melancholic. It brought to mind the grim reaper. Well the album is called ‘Bury Me Deep’ after all.
Somehow it just all fits together as if it was meant to be by some supernatural alchemy. Studying the colourful album cover, I think it couldn’t be more perfect. You couldn’t find a more appropriate mix.
Strangely psychedelic, sweetly innocent, a throwback to the sixties and yet there is something a little bit sinister in it. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe the faceless figures under the tree, or the fact that it is both day and night – equal parts dark and light. That’s how I felt about many of the songs on the album; a curious mix of yin and yang, black and white, clarity and chaos, joy and misery – a continuum of contrast across ten tracks.
‘The Creases Of My Heart’ boldly explores the darkness within, the elusive quest for our own personal truth. A starkly honest country-style song – Nashville should reach out and take it. A perfect start and it just keeps getting better.
‘Flamingos Lament’ fools us into thinking it’s going to be upbeat but despite the washboard beat, that inevitable darkness seeps through and just at the right time, a cello laments the loss of love. Just as briskly as it starts, it ends.
That dark melancholy continues in to ‘Epically Failing’, a beautiful melody and harmony, the lap steel guitar features strong but yet, for me, it feels just a bit too gloomy, as if it might bring me down.
‘I’m Not Crying’ illustrates the above-mentioned skill in crafting as fine a folk tune as is humanly possible. Kate Rusby springs to mind.
One of my favourites is ‘Broken Glass’. The opening line:
Inside I’m broken glass, the product of a fucked up past.
brought to mind some of Philip Larkin’s most memorable lines like:
They fuck you up your mum and dad.
This Be The Verse
Your mind lay open like a drawer of knives.
In fact, this latter Larkin line is probably a perfect description for this song. Bingham uses various poetic devices throughout – a sense of underlying discordance, juxtaposed with delicate harmonies. It’s complicated. What’s not to love?
‘Not Enough’ brought a wry smile to my face. Caustic is the word that comes to mind. It’s Bingham at her boldest with a very catchy chorus ideal to sing-along. This will appeal to anyone with a wicked sense of humour or who has ever borne a curmudgeonly grudge. Wonderful stuff.
‘The Human Touch’ contains sentiments that remind me loosely of The Days Of Pearly Spencer’; the emptiness inside, a sense of the best days in the past and just about surviving. Again, that lap steel guitar steals into my soul. It works so well.
‘Talk To Me About Love’ is a duet with special guest vocalist Bob Speers, delivered verse by verse like a dialogue, one of those awkward “we need to talk” conversations.
The title track ‘Bury Me Deep’ wistfully explores the passing of time and the healing of old wounds – the complexity of a grief carried deep within. I can’t help wondering if it’s addressed to the dearly departed. Maybe.
The Belfast Telegraph did an interview with Mandy Bingham recently and I read that she only began songwriting seriously about five years ago and that she didn’t believe she could sing.
Mandy Bingham’s voice is outstandingly beautiful. She has inherited her father’s songwriting skills and talent. Please, do not hide this light under a bushel. I hope this album gets the acclaim it so richly deserves.