Dave Rotheray

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David Rotheray was born 9/2/1963, Aquarius (Year Of The Rabbit), in Hull, East Yorkshire, the fifth of five children. Before becoming a recording artist and songwriter, David worked at Needler’s sweet factory (as fitter’s mate), Sorrento Chip Shop (later ‘Double Happiness Chinese/English Takeaway’) as potato technician, Willis Ludlow’s Dept Store (floor coverings section, warehouse duties). He also attended Sir Henry Cooper High School (1976-1981) then studied psychology at Hull University (1981-1988) , working for 4 years as part of the Educational Technology Research Group.

Rotheray played in various local bands from the age of 13, until 1988, when he formed crypto-vegetarian pop group ‘The Beautiful South’ with songwriting partner Paul Heaton, and signed to Go! Discs records. Over the next 19 years the band released ten albums plus various compilations, most famously ‘Carry On Up The Charts’ (1995). The Beautiful South finally split up in 2007. Rotheray formed the acoustic folk band 'Homespun' as a side project in 2003, and released 3 albums on his own ‘Homespun Recordings’ label. Homespun split in 2008.

Highly acclaimed, and considerably successful as a singer/songwriter, Rotheray's first eponymous (Proper) album is entitled The Life Of Birds, (with only the tiniest nod in the direction of the David Attenborough TV series). The album is apparently intended as a 'modern folk concept album'. Although a 'solo' effort, the record in fact features collaborations with ten different singer/songwriters drawn from the contemporary scene: Kathryn Williams, Alasdair Roberts, Jim Causley, Eliza Carthy, Camille O'Sullivan, Bella Hardy, Julie Murphy, Nat Johnson, Eleanor McEvoy and Jack L.

Despite the array of talents on show, this is no sense a compilation album: David Rotheray has arranged and produced all the tracks, and written all the lyrics, which follow a vaguely ornithological theme. The resulting record is an intriguing collision between Nashville and Whitby, with Rotheray's country instincts blending quite naturally with the generally more folky leanings of his collaborators.

Several of the new songs follow the putative feathery theme, with "The Sparrow, The Thrush & The Nightingale (Parts I and II)" - a comically acid sideswipe at the music industry sung by Jim Causley - forming a conceptual centrepiece. But the lyrical content is varied, strangely including two songs on the subject of Alzheimer's disease - one from a positive point of view ("Sweet Forgetfulness", sung by Camille O'Sullivan) and one from a negative ("Almost Beautiful", sung by Eleanor McEvoy). A particular highlight is "The Road To The North", a heartfelt, homesick lament for Rotheray's home town of Hull, sung by fellow north-easterner Eliza Carthy.

In a career that has taken him from forming The Beautiful South with Paul Heaton in the late 1980s to his critically-acclaimed acoustic side project Homespun, Dave Rotheray’s name has always been synonymous with music that mixes the melancholy with dry humour to great effect. On ‘The Life Of Birds’, Rotheray has succeeded in crafting an album where the emphasis is firmly on songwriting, with some of the best lyrics and most beautiful music of his career.

The Life of Birds
16 August 2010
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