THE PHIL LANGRAN BAND – The Distance (Folkwit Records f0145)

The DistanceThe Phil Langran Band have released The Distance, their fourth album. The music is based around Langran’s acoustic guitar and (predominantly) self-penned songs but brings in both a range of other acoustic instruments and some gentle electric guitar on occasion.

The songs reflect Langran’s knowledge of poetic tradition and seem like poems set to music. You can get a feel for the poetic quality of the lyrics from here: The music is similarly thoughtful – slow-paced but drawing you in if you take the time to listen. The video below shows the band playing ‘You’ve Got To Love This Road’ at the Otley Folk Festival in 2016 and the video lets you hear the band’s style – Phil Langran as lead singer and the focal point, a melodic song from the album and some pieces of individual musicianship from lead acoustic, lead electric, fretless bass and lead violin – the spotlight being handed from one to another as a jazz band would.

The overall feel is of the folk albums from the late 60’s and early 70’s that I used to have on vinyl – the point at which the folk tradition was blending acoustic and electric styles to see what worked together. Similarly, Langran’s singing voice mixes between the flatter sounds of his (East Midlands?) accent and an almost west coast American tenderness (‘The Rule Of The Heart’ for example). Until I listened to The Distance, I hadn’t thought about how it was much easier in the late 60’s/early 70’s to find albums with local voices than it is now. Have a listen to ‘Kitty Tyrell/Sky Gathering’ to hear how Langran and his band still tap into this tradition – an instrumental version of Kitty Tyrell seguing into Langran’s ‘Sky Gathering’ with its rolling folk club singing and the two songs held together by the violin leading the acoustic guitar.

Finally, the ability to write songs for people to join in with is a canny skill. There is much about this album which is understated, but as I’ve kept listening, I’ve found that I hum along to many of the songs. See what you think.

Mike Wistow

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‘Love This Road’ – live: