Everyone has a Covid story of some kind: the pandemic hasn’t left anyone unaffected. Understandably, artists of all persuasions have been inspired to document these experiences in some way or another, and I’m no exception. While many have gone inwards and presented intensely personal or otherwise observational commentaries, Giles Read has taken a quite different approach that is more geared towards narrative, character, and storytelling, offering up a 12-track album, where each song presents the story from the perspective of a different character.
‘Stories from the Lockdown’ a fascinating and quite unusual document of a strange and difficult period, in which Tooting-based Read has painted a series of characters based on his locale. “Every song looks at different aspects of the effects of the lockdown, from the struggles of the homeless to a student’s hopes for the future,” explained Giles, who accompanies his acoustic guitar to the whole collection.
As he expands in the press notes, “The song ‘The Binman’ is the story of Dymak, who cleans Valnay street and who has always felt alone, but how the Lockdown makes someone see him in a different way. Then there is ‘The A-Level Student’, based on a Graveney School pupil and her world – she no longer has the pressure of exams, but her future now looks incredibly uncertain.”
There are two things that immediately stand out on this album: the exquisitely delicate, supple guitar playing, and in combination, they make for a magnificently melodic, lilting folk experience. The form is the perfect vehicle for such character-based narrative composition.
‘The Frontline Worker (Thank You)’ is a magnificently lilting tune that for some reason has hints of the psychedelic grunge-infused indie of Eight Story Window, while ‘The Tenant’ twists together folk and flamenco, and for the bulk of the album, the sparse arrangements and Read’s floating, classically 60s folk vocal are faultless.
‘Stories from the Lockdown’ may be contemporary in its inspiration, but truly timeless in its delivery.