THE STONED CHERRIES – Baked In A Pie (own label)

Baked In A PieHaving only recently moved away from Shropshire, I had heard from time to time of The Stoned Cherries, who are based in the Shropshire/ Herefordshire/ Worcestershire area, but had never (as far as I know) actually met or heard them, so I was looking forward to hearing their CD Baked In A Pie. The band consists of Aly May (whistles and backing vocals), Dave Evans (acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, lead and backing vocals), Matt Donaldson (bass guitar, foot drum, acoustic guitar, piano accordion, backing vocals), and Roger Pugh (acoustic guitar, mandola, spoons, lead and backing vocals), augmented by Jo Rowland on steel pan on ‘Run With The Moonlight’. The CD is an interesting mixture of dance tunes and (mostly) original songs by either David Evans or Roger Pugh.

  1. ‘Morrisons’ is the traditional ‘Morrison’s Jig’, though it’s played through the first time at half-speed, which is actually quite attractive. It then accelerates into a more conventional version with more than a dash of folk-rock.
  2. ‘Rosalind’ (David Evans) is a C&W-ish song about a schoolboy romance. I suspect that it’s more entertaining as a live performance, especially the long and quirky spoken section at the end.
  3. ‘Run With The Moonlight’ (Roger Pugh) offers slightly reggae-tinged “Words of advice to a 16 year old son“. Well, Caribbean-tinged, with its leavening of steel drum.
  4. ‘Si Bheag Si Mhor’ is usually attributed (as here) to Turlough O’Carolan, though there’s some debate as to whether he wrote it, or adapted it from ‘The Bonny Cuckoo’. There again, some believe ‘Si Bheag Si Mhor’ came first and was adapted for ‘The Bonny Cuckoo’. I’ve no opinion either way, but it’s a melody I never tire of hearing, and is played well here.
  5. ‘Lemon Girl’ (David Evans) appears to be about the lengths to which people will go to get a lemon in wartime. Which is more fun than it sounds. I’m sure Robert Johnson would have approved of the metaphor.
  6. In ‘Final Arrangements’ Roger Pugh makes clear his preferences as regards his funeral arrangements. One of the better melodies among the songs here: nice arrangement, too.
  7. ‘Witches Flight’ (Roger Pugh) is described as “A sparkly tune from Roger’s folk opera “A Minstrel’s Tale”2.” The first few bars do remind me of a tune better known as ‘Arthur McBride’ (think Martin Carthy rather than Paul Brady), but as an arrangement it does indeed sparkle. Apparently it’s “now the signature tune for the Saint FM Folk Show.
  8. ‘House In The Woods’ is credited to Chris Allen and Chris Broderick, better known as the Singing Loins. It’s pretty close to the original, though thankfully it misses out the massed kazoos. Good song.
  9. ‘Dance Of The Seven Suns’ is another attractive minor-key tune by Roger Pugh, advising us to celebrate the natural world rather than destroying it. Some of the lead guitar has some almost John Renbourn-ish phrasing, which is never a bad thing. However, the lead vocal sound very uncomfortable in the lower register.
  10. ‘Forgotten Man’ (David Evans) is a surprisingly plaintive subject and arrangement. Good lyric, despite the repetitive chorus, which might be more effective cut down slightly.
  11. In ‘Cottage’ Roger Pugh sings of a life of unsophisticated self-sufficiency in a cottage in the Welsh Marches. The arrangement is suitably Celtic, if more Goidelic than Brythonic (and the lyric reminds me a bit of band rehearsals in a somewhat similar geographical context, but let’s not go there now…) The song goes seamlessly into…
  12. …a medley of the reel ‘Oysterwives’ Rant’ and the ‘Ballydesmond Polka’. And I can see why they might use this one to get “toes tapping and hips swinging at the end of a gig.
  13. ‘Days End’ (David Evans) is a reflective song about “memories, and the age-old conundrum of getting older.” Interesting lyric.
  14. ‘Down At The Billet On Boxing Day’ (Roger Pugh): while the notes promise us “Morris dancing, a mummer’s [sic] play and a traditional sing song, held at an annual event at The Crooked Billet, Leigh On Sea [sic], Essex“, this turns out to be just a song describing these events rather than the actual events. What a track that might have been. J However, it’s a likeable performance, sung unaccompanied and with strong harmonies. A good way to end the album.

I suspect that I might have liked this CD better if I’d seen the band live. Not that I didn’t enjoy it: it’s just that some of the tracks sound a little like hearing a live performance on the radio – it’s just not the same as being there. My wife (who is by no means a folkie) doesn’t like it because it’s so whistle-dominated, but Aly’s playing adds a more varied range of colours than you might expect, and the other instrumental work is equally efficient. The instrumentals are fine, and the songs are interestingly quirky, though the lead vocals are a bit patchy. However, I’m sure that fans of this very popular band will find much to enjoy here.

David Harley

Artist’s website: dgand2.wixsite.com/thestonedcherries

‘King Of The Fairies’ – live:

SEAN SIEGFRIED – Backwoods

Sean’s debut album contains six solo acoustic guitar compositions in a very English style. The opener, ‘Sam’s Brewery’, is satisfyingly chunky as is ‘Compelled’. Both employ strong bass lines with occasional forays onto the thin strings. Even though ‘Passionate Rag’ opens with two exploratory descending runs it too settles into a similar pattern and is a really nice track.

His training is film music is evident and your mind’s eye can’t help putting pictures to the sounds. My one criticism is that many of the tracks are too short. ‘Ashill’, for example, is the longest and is developing a new direction when it finishes. Sean has packed a lot of musical ideas into this album and one might say that his self restraint is commendable but I’d like to hear him tackle a major piece.

Backwoods is available as a download – you can play it all on-line too – and as a regular CD. There’s lots of footage of Sean on You Tube, as well, including covers of music by his inspirations Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Dave Evans.

Dai Jeffries