WEST OF EDEN – No Time Like The Past – A Collection (West of Music WOMCDII)

CollectionA school trip to Dublin the early 90s was to prove the catalyst for 20 years of music when classmates and subsequently husband wife Martin and Jenny Schaube fell in love with Celtic music. They formed West of Eden in 1995, releasing their debut album two years later. Since then, they’ve amassed a further eight studio recordings and a live Christmas album, settling into a conceptual stance with 2012’s Safe Crossing, a Scottish-coloured collection of shanties and sea faring tales, the Yorkshire folk flavours of Songs From Twisting River, and returning to the musical soul of Ireland for the immigration-themed Look To The West.

The current sextet, also featuring Lars Broman on fiddle, drummer Ola Karlavo, Henning Sernhede on guitars and mandolin with Martin Holmlund on bass, are celebrating two decades with No Time Like The Past, a career-spanning double CD set that comes in a hardback book featuring a chronological retrospective, archive photos and even a glossary of those who’ve been involved along the way. Over the course of 25 tracks, they go from their first to most recent album, the selections including two previously unreleased tracks, a new more prominent acoustic guitar version of the folksy waltzing ‘Where The Ivy Is Growing’ from the self-titled debut album and, setting things in motion, an all new song to mark the occasion, the suitably sprightly and upbeat fiddle-driven ‘Twenty Years of Travelling’.

There’s one other number from the debut, the almost Welsh hymnal-like ‘This Piece of Earth’ with its electric piano and strings arrangements, the first disc also featuring the puttering percussive jig ‘On She Goes’ and the title track off Safe Crossing, the Denny-like folk rock of ‘Immortal’ and, complete with tu ri lu ri lu chorus, the lively ‘True Believer’. Songs From Twisting River gets two cuts, the summery Celtic sway of ‘The Bee That Stung’ and the moodier, more reflective ‘Bird of Passage’. The most recent album gets two nods here, Jenny on accordion for the wistful instrumental ‘Tekl’s Tune’ and, Martin and Jenny trading verses, the train rhythm title track itself. The set also includes the 2015 non-album single ‘Glenntown,’ an almost hit celebration of Gothenburg which, featuring angelic choir, was written for a fan club tribute album to hometown soccer team that, the title referring to the fact that, at the time, four of the players were all called Glenn.

Over on the second CD, there’s two more from Look To The West, the driving folk rock of ‘Wilson Line’ with Martin on lead and the more sedate but slowly gathering five-minute slow waltz lullabying ‘Sweet Old Country’. Musically living up to its name, ‘Rollercoaster’, the title track of their second album, kicks this set off , the album also represented by the whistles summoning the Celtic mists on the slow building piano ballad ‘(I Still Remember) How To Forget’. There’s one more each from Safe Crossing and Songs From Twisting River, respectively ‘The Green Fields of Clover/The Homecoming’, Jenny singing the sparse, acoustic story of a ship caught in a storm at sea before fiddle picks up the play out coda, and the cobwebby folk of ‘Garden Out of Time’ recorded with Damien O’Kane in South Yorkshire.

The band acknowledging that, a combination of a working with an outside producer and the their lack of confidence in themselves meant it didn’t really deliver, the third album, A Stupid Thing To Do, is limited to one token track, ‘The Boy From Yesterday’. There’s nothing from their Christmas collection, but you do get four from the first of their conceptual albums, 2009’s The West of Eden Travelogue, their first with Broman on fiddle, the swayalong ‘In A Faraway Town’, the heavier, brooding ‘Hawthorne Heights’, the bouncy mandolin-led ‘Jimmy’s Van’ and electric piano accompanied reflective mood piece ‘Scottish Rain’.

The two remaining track as are both unreleased, ‘In A Faraway Town’, a lively nautical-themed jig from 2013 with definite Pogues shades, and, conjuring the MacGowan/McColl pairing, the terrific closing piano and whistle ballad, ‘The Captain’s Daughter,’ an outtake from the Safe Crossing sessions.

Quite why they aren’t far more internationally known and celebrated is a mystery, but this serves as a perfect introduction to discover on the folk world’s true undervalued treasures. Looking back in the opening song they sing, “It’s just twenty years of travelling and I wish for twenty more”; I’ll raise a glass of brännvin to that.

Mike Davies

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‘Twenty Years Of Travelling’ – official video:


WEST OF EDEN – Look To The West (West of Music WOM CD9)

Look To The WestI don’t know which impresses me more, the Swedish sextet’s music or the fact they inhabit their chosen genres so authentically you’d believe they were native born. Led vocally by Martin and Jenny Schaub and featuring accordion, fiddle and guitars, their 2012 Safe Crossing album was a collection of salty shanties and sea faring tales which might easily have persuaded the uninformed that they came from some coastal fishing port in Scotland. The follow-up, Songs From Twisting River was entrenched in the heart of Yorkshire folk (even featuring Kate Rusby), but, for their ninth album, they’ve musically relocated to Ireland, quite possibly Donegal, and drawn on the long tradition of songs about Irish emigration to provide a Celtic template for an ambitious project addressing the emigrants who left Sweden for America at the end of the 19th century, almost a third from the band’s home town of Gothenburg. Not only is this little known outside of Sweden, but there’s been very few songs written about it at home either.

America’s not actually the destination of the opening farewell number, but rather the slightly closer shores of Yorkshire with Jenny taking a lovely Irish-accented lead on the liltingly sung ‘Going To Hull’ gently underscored by acoustic guitar and yearning accordion. Mölnlycke, a small Gothenburg town famous for the Poppel brewery referenced in the song, is the setting for the snare backed ‘Rainy Town’ which, sung by Martin, offers the other side of the picture as a local barfly insists he’d never leave.

The longing of those finding themselves far away is at the heart of the gently swaying ‘Oh, I Miss My Home’, Jenny’s pure voice soaring as the memories tumble through, while the uptempo rockier ‘Wilson Line’, a song titled for the British shipping company that transported many of the emigrants, which recounts the misadventures of one poor lad who not only finds himself relieved of his money by a duplicitous beauty but stuck with a fake ticket.

Incorporating an opening snatch of ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ as the passengers gather on the sea for the leaving, the brass glowing ‘Sweet Old Country’ boasts one of album’s finest choruses before the arrival of the first of the two instrumentals, a pairing of the Irish traditional ‘Paddy Fahey’s’ with ‘Sweel’, a fiddle jig from band member Lars Broman. From here it’s on to moody swayer, ‘The List’, rumbling electric guitar and fiddle providing the spine as Martin checks off everything needed for the voyage to the promised land, ending with a reminder not to forget the words of goodbye.

It’s back to Jenny’s softer tones for another parting song, ‘The Crying Stairs’, as lovers take their leave, the hope of a better life shadowed by a reminder of those who have gone before, “strived for a good life and failed.” The hopes and dreams of fortune beyond the “sickness and despair” of home carry the infectious uptempo shuffling title track duet which, in turn, leads to the traditional sprightly folksiness of ‘Please Mister Agent’, a playful number based on an actual letter to the White Star Company by a young girl keen to leave the country to escape an abusive marriage.

The second instrumental, the Celtic-hued melancholic guitar and accordion ‘Tekla’s Tune’, heralds the last two tracks, bassist Martin Holmlund co-writing with the Schaub’s on ‘The Ticketless Man’, the bittersweet story of Johan Andersson who, in gaining a wife and family to support, had to give up his dreams of building a new life in America. The album ends on the suitably titled ‘The Final Cut’, a lovely, fiddle kissed, starry skies lullaby sung by Jenny bidding farewell to Sweden and sailing West of Eden, the lights of home fading in the distance as, the track swelling to a near orchestral finale, she vows “not a single night will pass when I won’t dream of you”. When it comes to the 2017 Radio 2 Folk Awards nominations for Best Album, it would be good to see the horizons widened to accord this lot the fulsome recognition they deserve.

Mike Davies

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.

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

‘Look To The West’ – official video: