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

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 below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website.

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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

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.

Never Stop Moving

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. Continue reading FAUSTUS – The Guildhall, Leicester 26th April 2013

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 Continue reading FAUSTUS – Broken Down Gentlemen

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

Paul Johnson interviews Jon Boden from Bellowhead at the Broadside Album Launch…

On the 17th of October, Paul Johnson caught up with Jon Boden (from Bellowhead) at the Broadside album launch party in the aptly named “Water Rats” hostelry in old London town. The interview took place just outside the toilet… We can a-shore you that its all “above board” if you get our drift.  Unfortunately however, like the transcript of the interview, our old sea-dog, Paul “Johno” Johnson appears to be sinking at the very end leaving poor old Jon Bowden desperate to bail and the folkmaster with a long weight for the interview hence the posting delay Continue reading Paul Johnson interviews Jon Boden from Bellowhead at the Broadside Album Launch…