CD review of Heather McNeill’s “Seasons of my Heart” by Mike Simmons of Folk at The Barlow 2020
As regular readers, you will know that I am reviewing CDs and other media by local artists and bands whilst there are no ‘live’ events to talk about. This week, my selection is ‘Seasons of my Heart’ by Heather McNeill. Originally from Bolton, (so I will claim her as a ‘local’ singer), Heather McNeill now lives slightly further afield, but often sings in local folk clubs. Her album, Seasons of my Heart, contains 12 songs written by Heather, although in the interests of honesty, she credits the words of Pirate Song to her dad, Raymond Dean. He who wrote the poem for a school magazine and Heather supplied the tune and the lyrics for the chorus.
All the songs are personal and inspired by events or experiences in Heather’s life. Little Room references her experiences in a folk club in Uppermill and the pictures she paints will be familiar to anyone who has sung there, either as a performer or as an audience member. Ann Cargill sees life through the experience of others. Ann was a passenger on the Nancy, a packet ship that sank off the Scilly Isles in 1784.
Indian’s Head, part of Saddleworth Moor near Oldham is personal for me. Beyond folk music, my other great passion in life is hill walking and I can imagine myself on this iconic and instantly recognisable hill whilst listening to Heather’s song. It’s a beautiful, wild place and a truly evocative song. We have all been offered a copy of The Big Issue. I wonder how many of us have bought and read one? I really recommend that you do so – it’s great value for money and an interesting read. As Heather’s song relates with great sympathy, their existence is fairly miserable but marginally better than the one they lived before. What’s more, it is infinitely more dignified than their previous lives. Weeping Willow is a very personal view of the impact of environmental change on our countryside, whilst The Girl Who Sings provides melodic and lyrical drama to an ultimately happy story of a girl freed from a concentration camp. The last song on the album, The Meeting and Parting Song claims to be partly a ‘calling on’ song and partly a song of farewell. For me it works better as the latter, but I take the point about its versatility. Seasons of my Heart is balanced, thoughtful and interesting, sometimes challenging to listen to. Heather’s arrangements, singing, and playing are faultless and it’s worthy of note that she sings all the parts. There is only her voice there though it sounds like there’s a band.
You can get a copy of the album by contacting Heather on firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting www.heathermcneill.com
" Seasons Of My Heart" - Heather McNeill
Review by Jamie Blatchley of The Chorley FM Folk Show.
Seasons Of My Heart is a 2015 album of self-written songs by Heather McNeill. I have been lucky enough to hear her perform live many times, indeed so many that quite a while had gone by since I had listened to her album. However, I came across it again when looking for something else (isn't that often the way!) and having enjoyed her live performances I put the album on and was reminded just what a great album it is. In fact, I was staggered by the album.
The songs, which I will go into more detail in a moment, are very well researched and written and would stand out for their words alone, but it is their arrangements that make them stand out more than you might initially expect.
Heather McNeill is a very good acoustic guitar player and makes these songs stand out when she performs them live and alone, but as she can play more than just the standard 3 chords the tunes stand out as more than usually interesting. She has also tastefully chosen some other musicians to flesh out her arrangements. Bass guitar, electric double bass and tambourine are played by Frank Brierley, Whistle is played by Paul Morris, Piano and Accordion by Andy Green andCymbals by Nick Jones and they compliment the arrangements without swamping them. 'Little Room' tells of the barn in which she was first encouraged as a singer, musician and a songwriter and the people who helped her talent flourish.
'The Game' is a song written and performed for school assemblies on the theme of bullying, to deliver and freshen the anti-bullying message. 'The Big Issue' was inspired by the lady who stands in Heather's village selling this magazine in all weathers. 'The Girl Who Sings' is the story of a lady who survived 5 concentration camps to reach the USA where she continued to sing. 'Pirate Song' is a swashbuckling poem written by her father which Heather added a chorus and a tune. 'The Meeting & Parting Song' is a song which, as the name suggests, is appropriate for either the beginning or end of any convivial gathering with sentiments of friendship and good cheer.
The song that I remember the most after the album had finished is a moving song of climate change and environmental destruction called 'Weeping Willow' "Will our native flora and fauna in our green and pleasant land survive in years to come".
At times throughout the album Heather is singing alone, yet sometimes in choruses or in refrains there are 2 or 3 Heathers singing together either in unison or in harmony.
Seasons Of My Heart album by Heather McNeill. "What will endure are the memories we've made - until we meet up once again". Thanks to Heather McNeill for the songs and the short but informative sleeve notes which have helped me to learn about the background and inspiration for these songs.
Support at Glossop was from Heather McNeill, a female singer songwriter and (ex) teacher who only found music after a life-changing event. Her original songs are strong and distinct. She sings with a delicate voice, there's poignancy here, heartfelt lyrics tug. None more so than "The Game", a plea about bullying and looking through others' eyes. It should be compulsory for school assemblies everywhere. I confess a tear formed.
Other songs are packed with observational comments such as "Indian's Head" and in "Ann Cargill", a tale of a scandalous star expelled from India, becomes a sympathetic rendering of a tragedy and ghosts. Heather, in her own words, is on a journey. It's one that deserves to be long and supported.
Fatea Magazine 27/02/16
Folk North West Summer 2016 issue: extract from a review of Heather's CD "Seasons of my Heart", page 43
Heather has the unique talent of making the listener believe in her lyrics, delivered with sincerity and a certain quiet charm.
Extract from Edgworth Folk Festival Programme
Heather provided an excellent support act with Folk at The Barlow when The Wilsons visited the club in April. A thoughtful singer songwriter with an infectious smile, she will keep you entertained when she appears at the Festival.