Cunningham, Proud & Denholm (1994)
review by Derek Walmsley

It was 12th October, 1994 at the Workington Carnegie Theatre, Cumbria, and a group called "Campfire" were supporting Lindisfarne on the opening night of the UK Tour. For once, I was almost as impressed by the support band as Lindisfarne themselves and purchased their cassette, entitled "Cunningham Proud Denholm", from Gary at the merchandising stall. This was perhaps not surprising as "Campfire" was made up largely of current and future Lindisfarne members!

There was Steve Cunningham on bass, Dave Denholm on acoustic guitar and Ray Laidlaw on percussion. The particular character of this country-rock band was supplied by an unknown but talented violinist and a young charismatic frontman/ vocalist, Lee Proud. Lee had also contributed backing vocals for the 1993 Tall Ships CD "Sailing Home", including "Red Sails in the Sunset", sung by Tim Healy and played by most of Lindisfarne. The "Cunningham Proud Denholm" cassette has become a firm favourite of mine and I felt I should contribute a review of this little-known item. 



No composer details given, except "Copyright BDM Music Ltd." Lee Proud's and Steve Cunningham's contact phone numbers have been crossed out; this was presumably a demo tape originally.

    Taking Control 4:38 
    One More Thing 3:15
    Make It Mine 3:41
    Fall To Earth 2:37
    All I Need 3:51
    Thinking Of A Time 3:35
    Shelter And Collide 4:22
    Sweetness Goes On 3:03
    Whirlpool 2:45
    Love Burst 3:57
    Maggie 3:23
    Seed 3:56    

This set of mid-paced country-rock flavoured songs is given uniqueness by the quirky melody progressions and lyrics, often memorable choruses and Lee Proud's characterful vocals. Add to this excellent violin playing and a solid backbeat and you have a little gem. 

Strummed acoustic guitar and violin introduce the first track, one of three songs in triple time. Here, weaving slowly through a unusual melody and lines such as "Breaking the rules can never be easy/when two points of view need freedom/and watching you crumble when I walk out mumbling/my reasons for leaving", Lee is "Taking Control, Taking Control, asserting myself for my reasons' vying for my right to leave you". The second track is another interesting number with contrasting verse, middle eight ("All of my visions that I focused into had you at the core/and all of my dreams I had with you in them will be no more.") and chorus. 

"Make It Mine" is a piece of rockabilly, with Lee's voice underling the vulnerability of the lyrics ("confusion will always shout out/nurture the hunger of my doubt"). At the end he asks, amusingly, "Excuse me, but does that dog there have an owner?". The next two numbers pass pleasantly, the slow pensive triple-time "Thinking of a Time" affording a welcome contrast and a nice violin/slide guitar break. 

The violin meanders atmospherically through the tension of the minor key verses which are relieved by the uplifting chorus of "Shelter and Collide", only to build up again up for the coda. "Sweetness Goes On" is straightforward rock with an electric-guitar led anthemic chorus. A complete contrast is "Whirlpool", a slow exquisite ballad in triple time with vocals and violin taking turn to follow a melody of great beauty. There a few words in this short song but this only adds to its effect:- 

      After the fire has gone
    and blue skies turn grey to the sound of your voice
    Fall through your oceans I will
    and follow you down as you spin.

    No longer the silence I fear
    Long are the days that cut into pain
    Shadows no more will remain.

The medium-paced "Love Burst" (whose melody is echoed by the introduction to the final track) is followed by the all-out rock of "Maggie" with frantic fiddling, electric guitar, piano and abrupt chaotic drum ending- "she's evil, she's wicked, the devil of today". "Seed" has dark, brooding verses with an uplifting chorus which fades to close a memorable album.

The question is, whatever became of Lee Proud ? **

[** I asked Dave before their Hamburg gig in May 99 and he replied: "... no idea, really, I don't know". RG]