His critics call it “mansplaining,” but you know what? There aren’t too many of them, and British pop/folk artist Frank Turner is justifiably proud of his latest album, which tells – in song – the stories of 12 historical women, most of whom Turner feels went dramatically under-appreciated (“and one song about my Mum,” he explains).
Fittingly, he titled the record No Man’s Land. And when Turner performs tonight at the Palladium with his Sleeping Souls band, he’ll be featuring a lot of the tunes over his two sets – one acoustic, the other electric.
There’s the bouncy, mock-Celtic murder ballad “Jenny Bingham’s Ghost”; the melancholy “Rescue Annie,” about the unnamed 19th Century Frenchwoman found drowned in the Seine, whose face was used as the model for the universal medical CPR mannequin; plus songs about singer and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Deep South serial killer Nannie Doss, Byzantine princess Kassiani and Egyptian feminist activist Huda Sha’arawi.
Thanks to Turner’s meticulous wordmithery, his sensitive way with melodies and arrangements and his plaintive singing voice, it’s beautiful, and affecting, and infinitely memorable.
It’s the latest twist in the career turnabout that began in 2005 for Turner, once the singer in a post-hardcore band called Million Dead.
Turner told the Tullahoma News this week that he’s always been a history buff.
“I think that was kind of one of the original motivations for the record,” he said, “to try and bring together these two obsessions of mine that have always kind of run in parallel. And I mean there are sort of history mentions in other songs of mine here and there, but I’ve never sort of attempted to bring the two things together in a concentrated fashion before. And so I was wondering whether that was even doable.
“But the other kind of leading creative thought behind the record is that, you know, I’ve always written in quite a sort of autobiographical confessional style. I tend to write about my own life and my own experiences and that’s all well and good, and I’ll do that again in the future. But it just sort of occurred to me what it would be like to try and write a record about other people’s lives and other people’s experiences.”
He’s also doing a podcast, Tales From No Man’s Land, with each episode devoted to one of the women featured on the record. “Their stories are fascinating, moving, funny – and, most importantly, worth sharing and celebrating,” Turner explains on the series’ intro page. “To help us get to know these people a little bit better.
“There’ll be an episode for each song, with guest musicians, historians and – if she says yes – my Mum.”
Tickets and more info here.