My Record Collection 214

Stuart ‘Wooly’ Wolstenholme – Founder member of Barclay James Harves, one of my favourite ever bands.  He was one of three songwriters – but quite quickly he seemed to be relegated to just two songs per album.  A battle of egos and the usual musical differences (Stuart was the main driver of including classical music with the rock style of the band, whereas John and Les were veering more towards a disco-pop style) led to Wooly leaving the band after their album XII.  He fairly soon released by far his best record Maestoso.  A couple of the songs had been demoed by the band and rejected.  It is a gorgeous record and most of the songs would have slotted well into BJH albums.  Best songs are the title track, ‘Sail Away’ and ‘American Excess’. Anyway, he managed a short tour with a few friends before disappearing into the studio to produce his second solo effort.  Not such a great album, and I think it only came out on cassette, but I may be wrong.  Lately I bought the box set of all his solo recordings.  Black Box Expanded is the second CD – the original plus a few demos and live versions.   Funnily enough on re-listening I find I like it more now than at the time of the release.  But somehow the songs don’t hang together well.  Best are ‘Deceivers All’, ‘Has To be A Reason’  and ‘The Sunday Bells’.  After two poor selling albums in the early 90s he retired from making music and started farming.  Eventually the Barclays split up too – and his old friend from the band John Lees invited Stuart to sing with him on a tour and subsequent album.  Mostly these were very early singles which Stuart and John had written.  The tour encouraged Stuart to dig out some of his old music, and write a few more – and a new album emerged – One Drop In A Dry World.  I have continued buying his music, more as a tribute to him and the band than out of their greatness.  These albums are really for enthusiasts and devoted fans (like me) only and should be approached with caution.  Stuart was a complex character – probably a manic depressive – certainly prone to depression and a strange sense of humour.  Best songs are the title track, and ‘It’s You’.  Fiddling Meanly – came out next – a one-off live concert at The Mean Fiddler.  Nothing new, but some nice old BJH numbers to enjoy. Next up is Grim (Sense of humour required).  Well, a bit of a curates egg really, some nice tracks and some – you wonder just why?  No quality control and far too much on one CD.  Maybe he just felt he had to get all this music out of his system.  Anyway – best tracks are ‘Hebden Bridge’ and ‘Lark + Carp’.  To be honest I was only buying his music to support him at this point.  Caterwauling was his last album proper – and again it is far too long and seems unfocused; best songs are – the long track ‘Soldier Of Fortune’ – though almost a mini album itself and ‘Matilda Yarrow’.  Poor Wooly, A very clever guy, maybe too clever and a victim of massive depressions – he committed suicide in 2010.  A great loss and a pity as he was a superb songwriter and a very accomplished musician whose contributions, especially early on made Barclay James Harvest so popular.  There is also an album of unreleased stuff he was aworking on called the lost works which is pretty rough actually. 

That Hideous Man: Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme: An Appreciation