In the time it would take the average RC reader to decide which spider to use for their 45s, Darren Hayman has probably already envisaged a project and begun penning songs for it. The ex-Hefner man continues to be laudably curious and hard-working; this month sees the second of three planned volumes of his Thankful Villages project. As with Vol One Hayman (though this time with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Emma Kupa in tow) has travelled to 18 of the 54 UK villages that sent servicemen off to the First World War without suffering any losses.
Never one to shy away from an esoteric challenge, prolific British singer/songwriter Darren Hayman has written albums championing open-air swimming pools of England, favorite trains, arcane socialist chants, and, on this project, thankful villages. Coined after the First World War, a thankful village was one where every soldier returned home safely. Hayman delivered the first volume of this planned three-record set in 2016, chronicling in sound and song 18 of the 53 villages that bear this designation.
I f folk music is meant to pass on stories that have shaped and haunted communities, then Darren Hayman's Thankful Villages records are their delicate cousins. The former Hefner frontman has been making esoteric solo concept albums for years, but this ongoing project sees him visit every British village where all first world war soldiers returned alive, painting an intriguing picture of modern-day rural life. Its moods are wide.
G reat ideas do not always make great records. Thankful Villages is a tremendous undertaking: visiting all 54 English and Welsh villages that lost no soldiers in the first world war. Part musical album, part snapshot of rural life, volume 2 hits places such as Flixborough in Lincolnshire, where a factory explosion in 1974 killed everyone inside, but the village outside was spared.