Based around Worcestershire and Gloucestershire they may be, but with fiddle player Caitlin Barrett and guitarist Paul O’Neil sharing vocals, Loz Shaw on bass, keys vocals guitars, clarinet and banjolina and Tim Downes-Hall on a variety of ethnic hand percussion, Roving Crows are very much of a Celtic folk rock persuasion, with a pinch of prog to go with it. Case in point is the title track, ‘Bury Me Naked’, a song inspired by the book Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, which opens akin to an orchestra tuning up, introduces a desert wind guitar and, over the course of the next five minutes scraped fiddle across a moody, atmospheric swirl conjuring Middle Eastern bazaar images. The colours are also evident in the background of the more acoustic ‘New York Love Song’, about a bittersweet relationship with the Big Apple, but, as it gathers pace, the Celtic winds blow more forcefully.
For a four piece they create rich and diverse musical textures, often very much percussive driven, with ‘Refugee’ introducing a lurching bass driven rhythm that has its roots as much in African townships as it does reggae before the folksier Barrett-penned, impermanence themed ‘Riverside’, the first on which she sings lead, lazes through a dappled melody line, the instrumentation again gradually building as the song progresses. She’s also responsible for two-thirds of the tunes that make up the frenzied instrumental ‘Fire Sky’, that and ‘Tiger’s Eye’ sandwiching ‘Farewell To Chernobyl’, an Irish reel learned from Sharon Shannon.
Set to an initial tick tocking rhythm, ‘If I Had To Choose’ brings O’Neil back to the mic for a musing on the meaning and values of love, the slight reggaed lurch here considerably more pronounced on the ensuing very Marleyesque true story ‘Passing On The Love’.
‘The Last Breath’ is different again, Barrett’s fiddle providing the accompaniment to O’Neill’s spoken word ecological lyrics about taking better care of the planet which, in turn, gives way to the heavy drumming salvos of the discordant fiddle and guitars of ‘Revolution Is Now’, a number that conjures thoughts of the 60s psychedelic jams of The Chamber Brothers had they had Celtic rather than African blood in their veins.
Then, heralded by cymbal shimmers and a circling guitar line before percussion and fiddle enter the weave, comes the ten minute brooding prog folk-rock epic that is ‘Glory Bound’, a gatheringly urgent number that sounds nothing like its description of being written in a lonely moment, in a quiet house in a sleepy valley, but more like in the eye of a storm.
They end with a cover, Barrett again taking lead on their rumbling widescreen arrangement of Jimmy MacCarthy’s much covered ‘Ride On’. It doesn’t displace Christy Moore’s as the seminal version, but it’s certainly up there with the best.
An adventurous and inspired heady cocktail of Celtic and world music with a social conscience and a beating heart, you’re well advised to cast a roving eye and ear in its direction.
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Artists’ website: www.rovingcrows.com
‘Riverside’, the single – official video: