Tuesday, 7 July 2015

MEN OF STRAW


Band: URUK HAI (featuring Trevor Sewell)
Title: Men Of Straw
Format: Unique promotional tape version in special box, with metal pendant, colour poster folded into a black envelope, W.A.R. business card, and Uruk Hai patch.  Hand-made by Hugin, and most generously gifted to Nazgul in 2014.
Edition: Just the 1 copy

Track Listing:
01. Men Of Straw  3.41

An intriguing image to begin this post with, is it not?  What on God's green earth is that thing, you may well be thinking?!

Well let Nazgul enlighten you: It's a bespoke box-set edition of "Men Of Straw", a collaborative track between Hugin's Uruk Hai project and UK singer-songwriter Trevor Sewell.  Now, Trevor is a splendid fellow, and Nazgul can tell you this in all sincerity as I had the pleasure of meeting him in Bolton during the Joe Matera European Tour of 2013.  An accomplished and acclaimed musician, Trevor has been described by no less than Stuart Epps (the producer who has worked with Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Oasis and more) as "a brilliant musician with a fresh approach to the Blues".   

We also discover, via his website that our Trev is a 'Hollywood Music in Media Award winning Guitarist' who has gained a prestigious British Blues Award,  further prize nominations in Hollywood, and also has had a Number 1 album on the American Blues Scene Chart.  Clearly a man who knows one end of a guitar from the other, then....

Hugin's own W.A.R. Productions label had released the last two Trevor Sewell albums in Europe ("Calling Your Name" in 2012 and "Independence" in 2013), so with a working relationship between the two firmly established it's perhaps no surprise that a collaborative track should appear one day.  And, incidentally, your humble scribe can claim to have been there on the fateful date in Bolton in 2013 when the two first met, as your old uncle Nazgul was actually took the picture of Trevor and Hugin that appears on the inlay and poster on this special release!  

And, going off at a slight tangent, I can confirm from that evening that Trevor plays a mean acoustic version of that old chestnut, 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' too!


And what, you might ask, is a 'man of straw' anyway?  Not a olde English corn dolly, surely?!  Nope, in actual fact it's a phrase with a number of different (albeit similar) interpretations: 'a person or an idea that is weak and easy to defeat' being one, 'a person compared to a figure made of straw; a sham' being another, and/or 'a person undertaking a financial commitment without adequate means' being yet another.  Skyclad have a fantastic song by this name on their "A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol" album (on the thorny subject of re-offending child sex abusers), whilst metal band Viking also had a song of this title in their repertoire too.  Not that this version is a cover of either of those, mind you!

Let us have a quick delve into the special box - itself a lovely thing, with a cunning elasticised fastening, and resembling in shape one of those old-fashioned metal lunch boxes you see sitting on girders on pictures of the guys who built American skyscrapers back in the 1920's!  Inside, carefully nestled in bubble-wrap, are a number of items: a cassette tape with bespoke inlay bearing the song itself, a pagan-design metal pendant with inverted pentagram motif, a woven Uruk Hai patch, and a small black envelope with the edition number (#1/1) on the back.  Inside this envelope is a folded poster of the cover art, the picture of Hugin and Trevor.  What a great set of items!



The gestation of the 'Men Of Straw' song is an interesting one, though, and more convoluted than you might imagine.  Although shown here as a joint release with Uruk Hai, it would appear that this attribution may well not have been the original plan - as you can see from the picture below, an alternative (and presumably earlier) version shows this song on a proposed split release between Trevor Sewell and Hrefnesholt, with 'Men Of Straw' billed as Trevor's own contribution.

This particular story was found during Nazgul's research for this post on an Italian rock website, with the entry reading:

"Label sought to produce a split vinyl 7" that would see Trevor Sewell, known blues man who mastered for five weeks at No. 1 on the American Blues Scene Chart , and Hrefnesholt, dark-folk project of Alexander 'Hugin' Wieser of Uruk-Hai. 

This would be the hypothetical track list: 

Side A - HREFNESHOLT - 'New Song' 
Side B - TREVOR SEWELL - 'Men Of Straw

Presumably by 'New Song' they mean an as yet unreleased song - either that, or Hrefnesholt was gearing itself up to cover Howard Jones' 1983 smash hit...?!

What is interesting is that if you follow the link above to Reverbnation you'll see two entries in Trev's playlist for 'Men Of Straw' - one called 'acoustic version' and the other called 'Men Of Straw (cover by Uruk Hai)'.  Curiouser and curiouser, though neatly completing the circle back to Uruk Hai and away from Hrefnesholt! 


Anyway, back to the song.  It's carried largely by Trevor's rough but tuneful vocal delivery, a touch of sandpaper in the lungs methinks as he rasps his way though the lyrics (shown below).  It's essentially an acoustic/folk guitar track with the melody principally coming from the vocals, with a complementary percussion coming from Hugin that manages to be weighty but not overly domineering at one and the same time.

A very interesting song, and beautifully delivered.  It sticks in the mind and is easy to whistle as one potters around one's realm, as the inhabitants of Castle Nazgul will readily attest.  Great stuff, and if there was more of this material recorded and as yet unreleased then I'll be the first in line hammering on the W.A.R. Studios doors to hear it!


The lyrics to this track are:

'You tell me you're honest that I could trust you
with my life if I had to
but how do I know that you are what you say
I don't - but you gotta trust someone someday
we'll demolish the walls that we made
that diminish and enslave
but how do you know that I am what I say
well you don't but you gotta trust someone someday
Hey
someday, somewhere, somebody may tell you that you have no right to be
wrong
so be strong - and don't let them put you somewhere that you don't belong.
hold on - to what you believe in and watch how they crumble and fade
Men of Straw - they come and they go
they're just made that way
someday we'll demolish the walls that we made
that diminish and enslave
but how do you know that I mean what I say
you don't but you gotta trust someone someday
Hey
someday, somehow, somebody may tell you that you have no right to be
wrong
so be strong and don't let them put you somewhere that you don't belong.
hold on - to what you believe in and watch how they crumble and fade
men of straw they come and they go
cos they're made that way
they are what they.
Men of Straw they are what they are
cos theyʼre made that way
just Men of Straw'


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