26 September 2023

Fireside Stories – Hebden Bridge circa 1971-1974

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Trevor Beales, Independent 2022.

I have always been a fan of rare recordings, many of them lo-fi, by obscure artists who failed to come to the attention of the wider public for one reason or another.

In many instances the recordings remain curios of a particular time and place and only of interest to a select few.

However, there are times when a real gem is unearthed, and Trevor Beales Fireside Stories is one of them.

Trevor Beales was born in 1953 in Algiers to a British soldier father and a French mother who was a stenographer with the French army.

After WW2 the family relocated to Todmorden in West Yorkshire, a neighbouring town to Hebden Bridge, which at the time was quite run down with many empty buildings offering affordable accommodation.

The coal-fired power stations that provided energy for the cloth industry had fallen silent and left multiple villages empty, blackened, dirty, and dark, but towns like Hebden Bridge began attracting a motley group of artists, musicians and misfits who created a bohemian community that brightened the otherwise drab environment.

Young Trevor was to discover the wonders of music and the guitar there.

He started playing at 10 years of age and inspired by the music of Bob Dylan, Django Reinhardt, The Byrds, James Taylor and Dave Evans.

He began writing his own originals and performing them at local folk clubs and pubs.

After leaving school (he walked out in the middle of a science class and never returned), Trevor worked for a time at a local microphone company, Caltrec, which may go some way to explain the remarkable quality of his attic home recordings.

Trevor Beales is an impressive guitarist and wonderful songwriter.

Many of his songs remind me of the work of Nick Drake, another incredible talent who went largely unrecognised in his own time.

(I will review Nick Drake’s posthumous albums in the coming weeks).

When Trevor recorded these songs he was a teenager and the level of sophistication of both the lyrics and the music is remarkable.

The recordings were completed between 1971 and 1974 and they have never been released before.

Trevor’s finger picking technique puts him in a class with very few peers.

He could hold his own with players of the calibre of Bert Jansch, Django Reinhardt, and Nick Drake and on top of this, teenage Nick was writing lyrics that sound like they’ve come from a much older and world-wise wordsmith.

Trevor Beales died suddenly in 1987 at 33 years of age leaving behind a wife and child and these tapes.

What a legacy.

I highly recommend this album. It’s available from Bandcamp.

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