Yorkshire-based Tim Hunter is a prolific singer/songwriter, who also counts script-writing, acting and music-producer as his other skills. He also has his own record label Northern Soundscapes and in a previous life he’s been a freelance IT professional so he’s a busy man! His musical compositions range from ballads through to classic rock and have been enjoyed by audiences both in Europe and the United States, and more recently he has focussed on almost operatic concept albums about characters from North Yorkshire folklore, historical and contemporary.
Tim’s latest opus is inspired by the writings of Lewis Carroll, who was a frequent visitor to Whitby, Carroll’s family home being in Richmondshire (lovely name, sadly no more). His real name was Charles Dodgson, and the story of this album features Dodgson as the principal character in a fantastical tale that spans between 1871 and 2021, and has its own version of the Wicked Queen. Held captive by the Red Queen, and trapped in a strange world full of microchips and bytes, a young girl is rescued from the other side of The Looking Glass, and eventually returned back to the 1870’s where she belongs…
The album works as a sort of audio-book set to music (i.e. a musical!), it contains a fascinating collection of songs, with haunting melodies and fantastical lyrics, several of which incorporate material from Carroll’s original poems. The tale takes the listener back to 1871, which is the year of Carroll’s last documented visit to Whitby. In this fictional tale, Charles Dodgson elects to stay at a hotel owned by a William Smith as his base for attending his brother’s wedding in Sleights, a village on the southern outskirts of Whitby. Dodgson is then beseeched by Mr Smith to rescue his teenage daughter Sarah who is trapped in 2021 after ‘following her nose’ Through The Looking Glass, and subsequently held captive by the wicked Red Queen.
Travelling into the future to save Sarah, Dodgson/Carroll then finalises two of his better-known poems, “Jabberwocky” and “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, lines from which are incorporated into the songs. The way Tim Hunter has created this album provides a new means for Carroll’s story to be seen in a different light, travelling through time in more ways than one.
So – to the music itself. The title of Tim’s record label is an accurate guide to the mood of the piece, it is a soundscape created with what to me is quite a 1980’s sound and arrangement (no criticism there), largely driven by electric piano as the core instrument. Synths and guitar also feature, but piano and vocals are at the fore-front. Tim’s voice in itself is strangely reminiscent of Tull’s Ian Anderson, and he’s backed up by two strong women singers, Jasmine Isa Butterworth and Elenora Neilson, the latter in particular having a great voice, full of passion and warmth.
Together, they remind me of Deacon Blue, and a sort of pastoral, less beat-driven, Human League! The overall effect is strangely soothing whilst telling the tale, the music kind of washes over you while you’re following the story-line, with a strangely satisfying conclusion! Tim has carved himself an unusual niche here and, while it’s not going to appeal to everyone, he’s written, performed and told the story with considerable panache!