Faith pours through these words, whether critiquing culture, pointing to grace, reflecting on mortality, adoring God – or simply enjoying creativity in their wordplay and rich imagery.
Time: 20 tracks / 59 mins
Vesper Sky is a collection of songs, spoken words and various combinations of the two that oozes skill, professionalism, life experience, spiritual depth and fun.
It ends with an Yvonne Lyon poem-song that insists, “You were made for greater things than living with regret; here’s to enjoying, and not to endure.” That attitude of making the most of life flows out of its many delicious words: "Let these be the luminous years / the ludicrous handstand years... The being loved, that’s it, years.”
The fun comes in humorous pieces, but also through the delight in words that runs through everything, right down to immaculately-scanning lines that emphasise the right bits like a well-fitting dress.
I covered Yvonne Lyon’s fine, progressing singer-songwriter work on her Metanoia released some months ago. Carol Henderson has extensive radio work on her CV, while husband Stewart just does the lion’s share here.
This set sums up the broadcaster and Liverpool poet’s expansive portfolio of topics. One minute he’s observing dignity at a funeral, while another he’s celebrating children’s stories, or ruminating on love or dementia.
“Perfect Fit” is a highlight and absolute joy, as he manages to fit Cannes, a polar bear, uncomfortable pews and stretch limos into a poem that worships God, while being thoroughly entertaining – and it even has slide guitar maestro Bryn Haworth playing blues in the background. I smile broadly every time I hear it. (For American readers, for 'Swindon' in the poem, read 'Scranton,' if The Office is a good guide.)
More deeply, he offers a theology of brokenness with a deft touch. The phrase “tarred and tethered” echoing a more familiar idiom, while the poem as a whole points to the healing that comes through Christ, “the First-Born Broken / The original Renaissance / The only Reformation / Who in turn breaks the many things that now break us.”
Lyon also puts in a heavy shift, with some fine songs and playing backing music to some spoken pieces.
The pair begin well with a piece called “After the Fall,” which sets the scene for a broken world that holds the situations they cover, but the song also hints at a better way:
“For those deprived of everything, all is stark and small,
The place where Cinderella never made it to the ball.
There seems no gold of justice in their burnt out cattle stall
For this is how it is after the fall...
The bee sips from the sunflower, the Northern Lights enthral
There must be wine and orchids, not vinegar and gall.
There must be elevation following the fall
It doesn’t have to be this way after the fall.”
Then after a description of the current state of play (“How clatter is the world, and mishmash and bashed in and shrill with its blind throat songs and strutting,”) and a song, where Lyon asserts, “I choose grace,” the team gets down to the detail inside that background.
Henderson has a particularly skilful way of taking ordinary life – such as crowds looking at smartphones on the street – and bringing out some transcendent aspect of the situation.
There is no theme as such, but some areas come up more than others. Henderson’s greater life experience leads to a few pieces either about, or induced by, ageing and the prospect of death peering over the hedge. “I have grown an old man’s skin / As agelessness cavorts within” - a line that sums him up somewhat.
Such an emphasis on poetry doesn’t mean that production is stinted: “Children Mind your Language” gets a full-blown brass section in the backing, as well as a Haworth slide solo.
If you are nervous about a collection that features many poems, please don’t be – most of these offerings are instantly accessible, deeply thoughtful or both, with light touch pieces acting as sorbet between the tasty, meatier courses.
If I dare mention it yet, it may be a good stocking filler, too.