Heartland Soul by red Velvet
This album is is all about passionate performance, particularly in Deirdre’s heartfelt, bluesy vocals, and great musicianship from the whole band. It’s also truly genre-defying: while Carrickfergus and Aragon Mill are very much from the Irish folk tradition, revealing Deirdre’s Northern Irish roots, the mariachi/cantina sound of That’s what duos do and the up-tempo honky-tonk of Night Train to Memphis have a more country sensibility, and You put a spell on me strays into jazz/blues. Then there’s the soulful pop of Our Love is Music and the quasi-ska of Stranger Welcome. But perhaps the band’s tour de force is El Patrón y el Diablo, which evolves from a brooding Latin rhythm into full-blown angry folk-rock. The oldest track on the album is the Cohenesque Private Prisons, which Les wrote back in 1985 while living in Italy, when prison privatisation was in its embryonic stages in the USA.
Most of the album’s self-penned songs have been written over the last five years, which have been incredibly tough at times, particularly for Deirdre. In 2011 she and her dear brother Gerard were both diagnosed with cancer within a couple of weeks of each other. Deirdre has been in remission for 6 years now, but Gerard sadly passed away in 2013. Music is healing, and the band continued to perform through the dark times. The two hats that are shown on the album cover have come to be the band’s symbol; when Deirdre was undergoing chemo in 2011 and lost her hair, she wore a trilby, so the rest of the band wore them too in solidarity. Wishing to give something back to the cancer charities that had supported her and her brother with such care, in 2013 Deirdre and Les organised the first Red Velvet’s Music Marathon. A hugely successful event, held in the spring of each year, it presents over 24 hours of live music by some of the best acoustic musicians in the Cambridge area, and has so far raised over £20,000 for local cancer charities.
(All songs by Les Ray except where indicated)