I first became aware of singer / song-writer Greg Hancock at Exeter Oxjam last November, which I had been invited to by my good friends in Devonbird; and where I met so many excellent musicians, and some other interesting people too (see my Blog entry #28). Several album reviews on this Blog came about as the result of direct or indirect contacts I made that day: See my reviews of Ange Hardy (Blog #32); Emily Howard (Blog #37); and Daria Kulesh (Blog #35). This EP review is yet another example of a spin-off from that one gig. All in all it was a very good event to attend for many reasons.
Greg was one of those involved in the organisation of the gig; and played a fine set with his quartet too. His set that day included two of the songs in this new collection. Two members of the band have worked on the EP with him: Jo Hooper (Cello); and Lukas Drinkwater (Double Bass). Greg of course handles acoustic guitar and vocals.
Comfortable Hatred is a collection of five original songs penned by the man himself. It is subtitled ‘Stories, portraits and observations of life’s unpredictability’ – and I think that is fair comment. They are songs that are very strong lyrically; and in terms of subject matter, undoubtedly unique. Three of the five have something to do with old ladies. I’d refer the reader to the link below which has the lyric for each song, in order to see for yourself the depth and strength of these words. There are other snippets of information there too; And as my regular readers will know, I like a bit of background info to add to the listening experience.
First up is ‘Old Lady’ which I first enjoyed at the Oxjam gig. It is apparently inspired by an interview with the legendary Joni Mitchell. It is obvious that Greg is fascinated by Joni in the interview – if not generally. Musically it has a Jazzy, plucky rhythm guitar part that’s difficult to prevent the mind rolling with, even when the song is finished! A good start.
‘Buckles And Buttons’ is a thoughtful meancholy song in three verses. ‘The lover; the family man; the soldier. Three male archetypes that don’t really stand up to a close look’, Greg tells us. Jo’s cello adds a depth to this song that enhances the mental anguish that these three characters are experiencing. Very insightful observations on male stereotypes.
Lyrically ‘Three Conversations’ is constructed in a similar way to ‘Buckles…’; having three verses, each dealing with a sub-section that come together to create the main theme. Each tells of a bizarre verbal exchange – presumably had, or heard by Greg himself; and each leaving him nonplussed! Musically it is more like ‘Old Lady’; although with a more melancholy ambience.
The title track is based on an observation of the wierdly workable relationship between two elderly ladies – Grace and Margaret – which is paradoxically both antagonistic and symbiotic (can’t live with her; can’t live without her, type of thing). Its quite amusing too. The guitar on this track is very nice indeed.
Finally ‘The Baby’s Head’ ends the collection. This is another of the songs I first heard at the Oxjam gig. Greg wrote this after reading a story about a young family trying to escape their plight in Syria. It is a poignant tale; but one with a happy ending.
The EP was recorded at Rapunzel Recording Studios in Seaton, Devon. The quirky (perhaps slightly disturbing) cover illustration is by Julia Hamilton, and is entitled ‘Grace And Margaret’ after the two characters in the title track. I cannot comment on the CD case / sleeve because I’ve only worked from a download.
I like Comfortable Hatred – mostly for its excellent thought-provoking lyrics; although I also love the guitar on ‘Old Lady’ and the title track. Also Greg’s vocals are good; and he, Jo and Lukas have generally done a very fine job of arranging the music between them. Lyrically, its easily the best collection I’ve heard this year, and is unlikely to be supplanted. If you’re into thoughtful songs, then I’d recommend this EP – well worth £4 for a download! PTMQ
Here is a link to Greg’s website… http://www.greghancockmusic.com/
Here is a link to Bandcamp where you may listen to, or download the songs; and read the lyrics..