WILL POUND – Through The Seasons (Lulubug LULUBUG004)

Through The SeasonsThe cover tells you most of what you need to know about this album. Will Pound, here devoting more of his energies to melodeon than harmonica, was brought up in the Morris tradition and is a long-time member of Chinewrde Morris. Through The Seasons is a project he has long cherished and has brought together some fine musicians to realise it. Although there are a convenient twelve tracks, this is not a calendar – the Plough Monday tune comes in at number nine – nor is it a user manual. It is, as Will himself says, a celebration.

If you have even a passing interest in Morris many of these tunes will be familiar to you but possibly only the hardiest will have heard ‘The College Hornpipe’ or ‘Papa Stour Sword Dance’ in situ. You will certainly have met ‘Getting Upstairs’, ‘Trunkles’, ‘The Nutting Girl’, ‘Brighton Camp’, ‘Salmon Tails’ and ‘Ampleforth’ not to mention ‘The Liberty Bell’. The selection of tunes covers Cotswold, North-West, Border, Rapper, Molly and Longsword.

At the core of band are fiddler Ross Grant and Benji Kirkpatrick playing bouzouki, banjo and guitar but Will has called in a few favours, notably John Kirkpatrick who leads the melody on the Border tune, ‘Not For Joe’ and Eliza Carthy who lends her fiddle and voice to ‘The Nutting Girl’ – the latter proving that she is a Waterson through and through. Fiddlers Ross Couper and Patsy Reid are drafted in to add authenticity to the Shetland tune that closes the set.

Purists, if any are left, may take exception to one or two liberties taken with the arrangements – Will certainly does odd things to ‘Brighton Camp’ – but the casual listener will enjoy Through The Seasons immensely and I’m sure it will be in every car on the way to a folk festival this summer.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: www.willpound.com

Through The Seasons:

FAUSTUS – Death And Other Animals (West Park 87323)

Death And Other AnimalsDrawn from the ranks of Whapweasel and the now defunct Bellowhead, as well as other projects, self-styled ‘bloke folk’ trio, Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick and Saul Rose return with their third album, Death & Other Animals, the follow up to 2012’s Broken Down Gentlemen. For part of this year, they were Artists in Residence at Halsway Manor, the National Centre for the Folk Arts in Somerset, where they availed themselves of access to the extensive library, the material therein shaping the album and, in particular, featuring four songs from the hugely obscure archive of Somerset folklorist Ruth Tongue. Since they were already in situ, they also recorded the album (the cover of which features the bloody, mounted head of a vampire stag on the cover) at the Manor.

As well as the traditional numbers, there are two covers. ‘Oh To Be A King’, a six minute traditional-flavoured song about the lot of the working man written, but, as far as I can make out, never recorded by Bill Caddick, that features striking three part harmonies, melodeon and fiddle, ending in a lengthy Kirkpatrick instrumental coda entitled ‘King of the Discoed’. The other, another lengthy track at near seven minutes isn’t a cover as such, but, intoned by Sartin, rather a setting of Olivia McCannon’s poem ‘Gurt Dog’, a variation on familiar ghost dog tales, but, here, a rather more benign mutt that guides the hapless narrator, lost on the Quantocks, safely home.

Turning to the traditional, the album opens with the sprightly strummed mandolin, violin and bass drum thump of ‘Slaves/Foul Weather Call’, Scottish Chartist leader and poet William Sankey’s 1840 call on the sturdy men of England to throw off their chains, set to music by Kirkpatrick and rounded off with the traditional Sussex hop step.

The first of the Tongue numbers comes with a galumphing, fiddle rousing arrangement of ‘False Foxes’ that incorporates the open grave superstition and again rounds off with a traditional instrumental, ‘Idbury Hill’, taken from the Bledington Morris tradition. The second from the Tongue collection, arranged by Rose, is ‘The Deadly Sands’, scraping fiddle driving a shipwrecked themed number, sometimes known as ‘The Wrecker’s Song’, concerning the sands off Minehead and those that snare and plunder the ships driven upon them. Kirkpatrick gives a droning melodeon-led arrangement to the third from the archive, ‘The Death of the Hart Royal’, a mix of hunting song and Greenwood myth originating from or before the 15th century, while the last ends the album with the funereal march ‘Death Goes A-Walking’, a possibly 17th century tale of Death leading his victims in a danse macabre, suitably provided by snatches of Morris tune ‘The Black Joke’ which also brings things to a close with a dirge-like instrumental coda.

There’s three other traditional numbers, the first being a lively reading of ‘While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping’, a tale of a hare poacher and his dog, drawn from assorted variants. They cross the ocean for ‘Adieu To Bon County’, a tale of having to leave home and (false) friends to seek fortune overseas with only glass and bottle for companionship, taken from the ballads and folk songs collected by John and Alan Lomax.

The final traditional tune, sturdily sung by Sartin, is ‘One More Day’, a muscular, if not indeed funky, shanty collected by Cecil Sharp from singing sailor John Short, a Watchet legend who fought in the American Civil War and, after retiring from the sea, became the local town crier and fire brigade commander. Featuring a couple of mandolin solos it’s neatly punctuated with a snatch of a Sartin tune titled ‘Heavy Weather’, and it’s a brace of original instrumentals that provide the album’s remaining track, Sartin’s arms-linked, romping fiddle –driven ‘Harry Kitchener’s Jig’ which segues into Kirkpatrick’s no less jubilant ‘The Piper’s Rehash’ with what may well be a wheezing Cor Anglais in the background. Beastly good.

Mike Davies

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Artists’ website: http://www.faustusband.com/

JOHN JONES – Never Stop Moving (Westpark Music 87277)

JOHN JONES Never Stop MovingThe Oysterband’s frontman has been also following a solo career since the release of Rising Road in 2009, although the band’s schedule has meant he hasn’t had chance to put together a follow-up until now. Recorded with his sometime side-band, The Reluctant Ramblers, who include guitarist Al Scott, fiddle player Tim Cotterell, bassist Lindsey Oliver and Rowan Gödel duetting and on harmony with Benji Kirkpatrick and fellow Oysterband members Alan Prosser, drummer Dil Davies and new cellist Adrian Oxaal also providing contributions, it’s a less robustly rocking affair than the past couple of band albums and more inclined to the sort of rustic acoustic folk that reflects the pastoral inspirations and Jones’ walking passion that informs many of the songs.

Which isn’t to say it lacks muscle. Featuring driving background fiddle and Scott on bouzouki, ‘The Wanderer’, which references the Uffington White Horse, is a fairly punchy number while, inspired by the story of a girl waking from a drugs coma, ‘She Wrote Her Name Today’ rides a strident drum beat and fiddle swirl that calls to mind the anthemic work of early Runrig while also suggesting folksy version of Editors.

There’s also a rousing up-tempo energy to ‘Jim Jones’, a shanty-flavoured traditional number lyrically rooted in the convict transportations to Australia and the title track itself, which, much like a shark, sings about the need to be constantly moving (a metaphor for progress, here) in order to survive, is propelled by a suitably restless rolling wheels guitar riff. By contrast, slow-tempo album opener murder ballad ‘Down By The Lake’ is a far more contemplative affair. That was apparent inspired by a local tragedy around the Welsh borders where Jones lives while the story of someone he knows who found a magpie tied up in a plastic bag grew into ‘The Black And White Bird’ wherein the bird becomes a lover’s farewell token to the girl he’s forced to leave behind. Jones’ own background informs the simple, cello-streaked acoustic ‘Ferryman’ which, summoning thoughts of vintage Ralph McTell, casts his mind back to the “diesel river” of his Meltham childhood home.

History and imagination join hands on ‘Pierrepoint’s Farewellwhere, to fiddle, cello, simple circling guitar line and Gödel’s dual vocal, he recounts the events that led Ruth Ellis to the scaffold and muses on the hangman and his wife’s feelings as the moment of execution approaches. If that offers no explicit social comment, it’s certainly to be found on ‘Ghosts Of The Village’, a bouzouki led call to arms against the way England’s country villages have become taken over by wealthy city types and their second homes, absentee residents who have led to a dismantling of traditional communities.

The two remaining numbers are both traditional songs, Gödel sharing lead vocal on the Jones and Kirkpatrick’s tribal rhythm arrangement of the seafaring ‘Banks Of Newfoundland’ and, harking back to Jones’ own rambling soul, the album comes to a gentle close with ‘Young Rambling Boys of Pleasure’, a bittersweet lovelorn hymn to the urge to rove. A hugely impressive album, then, that goes to remind that Jones both talks the talk and walks the walk. Long may his feet carry him on.

Mike Davies

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Artist’s website: http://jj-rr.org/

‘Down By The Lake’ live at Shrewsbury Festival 2014:

FAUSTUS – The Guildhall, Leicester 26th April 2013

faustus bandThe historic Guildhall in Leicester, currently next door to the highly prominent  Richard III museum, played host to folk trio Faustus on Friday 26th April.  A magnificent setting and deserved sell out as Faustus is made up of 3 superbly talented singer/songwriter musicians, 2 of which are well known in Bellowhead.  A rare treat when they are able to fit in a tour as Faustus due to other commitments, it was a real pleasure to be there.

Comprising of mandolin and acoustic guitar, fret board wizard Benji Kirkpatrick has played with amongst others – The Oysterband, Seth Lakeman Band, Eliza Carthy and Cara Dillon and is a member of highly acclaimed and multi award winning Bellowhead.  Paul Sartin, another member of Bellowhead, and founder of Dr Faustus and Belshazzar’s Feast, has impressive theory and studying credentials behind him, including a 1st in his Masters Degree studying Traditional Music.  He plays a might fine Oboe, sings in various choirs and apparently is a stand up comic too!  Saul Rose is one of the finest melodeon players in the country and was spotted by Eliza Carthy in the early 90’s. Saul is very involved with traditional music and has played the melodeon for most of his life.  He spent most of 2011 in Warhorse which was playing in the West End.  He has worked with an impressive list of prominent people.

The set list comprised of mainly songs but we were treated to some tunes as well.  7 for the first half and 7 for the second, finishing up with Willow as the encore.  The audience were singing along to Faustus most of the time, and clearly appreciated the talent, humour and musicianship coming at them from the stage.

On speaking to them afterwards, they were very happy with the evening, and had enjoyed themselves. I did send Benji off to see the Richard III exhibition, which the staff had kindly left open for the evening, and felt guilty when Paul couldn’t find him!

They do have two albums out for your delectation in-between gigs!

I hope it won’t be too long before they tour again.

Campie

Artist web link: www.faustusband.com

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

FAUSTUS – Broken Down Gentlemen

FAUSTUS Broken Down GentlemenMy mum had a turn of phrase for the opening track of the latest Faustus album and that was ‘rumpy-pumpy’. Although some may see this as disparaging I do know what she meant (she even wondered why I liked ‘folk’ music at all) but ever since I first heard the original Albion Band I’ve been sold on this quintessentially ‘English’ approach to our genre of music. The opening track “Broken Down Gentlemen” is the kind of song that responds well to the squeezebox/fiddle led introduction which punctuates the lyrics sung (presumably) by Benji Kirkpatrick. The ‘Penny Dreadful’ style dramatization of our hero who loses his coach and six to his landlord (a bit like the Sheriffs in the current daytime BBC TV series) is full of established folklore just ripe for modern interpretation. Personally I’m pleased to see there’s no namby-pamby arrangements just good, honest workman-like let’s-get-stuck-in rhythm and lead lines topped by equally impressive vocals and another song worth checking out is the seemingly indestructible shanty “Og’s Eye Man/Ring Her Bell” which has managed to avoid the heavily clichéd reggae arrangements of shanties that are proving so popular at the moment. On a slightly negative point I would like to say that the lack of lyrics, song notes and information in the accompanying booklet is sorely missed but then again this would perhaps be better suited to a page on their website. Other than that, this is a very good album well worth a space in your ‘folk’ collection. 

PETE FYFE

Artist web link for latest tour dates: www.faustusband.com

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Bellowhead reveal video for new single ‘Roll The Woodpile Down’

Bellowhead Broadside Fresh from their victory as winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Album, 11-piece folk super-group Bellowhead reveal their new video for their already incredibly successful single, Roll The Woodpile Down. It’s no secret that Bellowhead are one of the best live bands around (as their 5 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for Best Live Band will attest) and this brand new video showcases the band in their element – live at a sell-out show in Glasgow.

Roll The Woodpile Down is the second single to be taken from the band’s new, Top 20, album Broadside. Vocalist, and arranger, Jon Boden explains a little more about the track:

This is a song I’ve known for ages – I think I first heard it sung in the pub in Durham where I used to hang out. I came up with the basic idea backstage in Birkenhead on the tour before last – I was a bit bored so started doing a bit of fiddle singing in the dressing room. It’s often just a little thing that’s gives you a door into an arrangement – with Woodpile it was adding an extra beat to the ‘Georgia Line’ so that you can get more vocal impact out of it. From there it was just a case of finding a second melody line to set against the song tune (this ended up being a simple oboe riff) and then putting it all together with the band. It’s been working really well live, particular since all the airplay on Radio 2 – people really know the chorus now!


Paul Johnson interviewed Jon Boden at the Broadside Album Launch back in October. If you missed it, you can click on the player below and have a listen…

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist web link: www.bellowhead.co.uk