Respectable Rebellion Review by Neil King, FATEA
Union Jill are a female duo of singer-songwriters, Sharon Winfield and Helen Turner, who perform story songs with an Americana influenced sound, so naturally the comparisons with the Indigo Girls have come trotting out, well not only is it lazy journalism, it sells both acts short.
Yes, there are similarities between the two, but no more so than other Americana sounding acts not restricted to the XX chromosome, there are a number of other influences that you can hear through the album from both sides of the Atlantic, Richard Thompson and Steve Earle to name but two, but like all those that are influenced, Union Jill have definitely brought those influences into a sound that is very much their own.
Despite the title, “Respectable Rebellion” is much more than a protest. “Trailblazer” for example celebrates the role of women in the ATA who flew the Spitfires, Hurricanes etc to the frontlines. That citing of positive example in small p politics really helps to make this a powerful album. That is reinforced by the following track, “Witch Hunt” that looks at the role of the likes of Mathew Hopkins in suppressing thoughts and murdering women, just because he had the power to do so, but this time hits it head on with a ‘fight back’ attitude.
Union Jill have recruited some top musicians for the album, Clive Gregson, who also shares duties behind the desk with John Wood, Andy Seward, Mark Boyce and Ric Sanders. Ric plays some absolutely blistering fiddle on “Morecombe Bay”, one of, if not the strongest track on the album reminding us, lest we forget, of the tragedy of the eighteen Chinese cockle pickers who lost their lives on the treacherous sands to the neglect and greed of gangmasters.
Sharon & Helen really know how to put a story songs together, drawing on references both old and new, “Mad Alice” for example, is about an Alice, Smith who was hung in York in 1825 for the crime of being insane, whilst “Queen Of Holloway” celebrates the radicalism of the suffragettes.
Make no mistake, “Respectable Rebellion” is an incredibly well written album, that has the power to cause reverberations and be sung in folk clubs for years to come. Union Jill are now a real tour de force in folk.