A collaborator with Paul Heaton in The Beautiful South and Crackerman, Dave Rotheray took time off from the Homespun project to release the “The Life of Birds” today in 2010. In typically understated style however, he restricted himself to writing and playing, allowing others to handle vocal duties on the entire album.
Dave Rotheray released his first solo album, “The Life of Birds” on Proper Records. Although on first inspection resembling something from an I-Spy or Observer’s pocket book, “…Birds” takes an ornithological theme for Rotheray’s musings on the human condition – be it relationships, infidelity, technology or even Alzheimers disease.
Inspired by an obsessional interest in folk music (after previous fixations with hip-hop and country), “…Birds” features a flock of guest vocalists including Kathryn Williams, Jim Causley, Bella Hardy, Eleanor McEvoy and Eliza Carthy. That cast came together after Dave compiled a list of the CDs in his car – and set about contacting them with a view to recording together.
And as Dave recounted, “everyone had their own way of working. Eliza Carthy brought in a finished song. Alasdair Roberts was the opposite – he came down and made it up on the spot. Everyone else was in between. It was an interesting way of working as you never knew how it would go until the day. It keeps you awake and on your toes.”
Ten of the chosen twenty were willing and available and various combinations of the assembled cast plough through fourteen self-penned Rotheray originals. Overseeing production duties on the record, Dave enlisted Rod Clements of Lindisfarne to supply vocals, dobro, mandolin and ukulele, while Damon Butcher appears on piano and organ.
Mournfully rustic or curiously uplifting, depending on your mood/viewpoint, the overall effect is slightly less sneering and sarcastic than the poison pen laments of former colleague Paul Heaton – and all the better for it. As Dave stressed though,“all pigeons described … are entirely fictitious and any resemblance to chaffinches, living or dead, is entirely coincidental!”
On a more serious note, Rotheray disclosed during press interviews for “The Life…” that much of his inspiration for the record had come during debilitating episodes of Ménière’s disease – a disorder of the inner ear that adversely affects both hearing and balance.
Confined to a chair for days at a time at home in Hull, watching birds in his garden led Dave to start identifying them via a newspaper’s giveaway wall chart – and almost by a process of osmosis, into his thoughts and then expressed in his song writing. Happily the condition responded to medication.