Penny The Ragman is the opening track and new single from Kimberley Rew & Lee Cave-Berry. It’s taken from the album, Purple Kittens.
The song builds beautifully, opening with a ringing guitar and lyrical celebration of Englishness – without any of the nationalistic undertones. Kim’s solo voice is joined by Liam Gray’s in-the-pocket drums and Lee Cave-Berry’s pastoral-perfect harmony vocals. The song crescendoes with a melodic, swirling, breathtaking, idiosyncratic guitar coda from Kimberley. The whole invokes the classic era of British beat music at its most poetic, engaging and thrilling. It is entirely typical of Kimberley Rew’s writing and playing – from his sojourn as Robyn Hitchcock’s right-hand man in cult heroes The Soft Boys; through his long spell as main songwriter and guitarist for Katrina and The Waves; and on into his treasure trove of later albums alongside Lee.
Kimberley tells the story behind the song – “My late cousin, Penny was a ragman – the person who looks after the uniforms for a side of Morris dancers (I don’t know if there’s a special term for a female ragman). After Penny’s funeral, everyone went back to the pub in her village. The place was packed to the gills. We asked permission to sit at the only remaining spaces at a big table; the chat soon revealed we had landed with the Women’s Institute – Penny was a mainstay, and she’d also written and staged a play in the village. This was the engine room of English social life! The lyrics wrote themselves.
I was convinced that the song would groove out on a single guitar chord, over a tamboura – we tried the tamboura, but it sounded terrible… So, it’s just Lee, drummer Liam (Gray) and me.”