Brophy’s Law’s album, True Stories, is a jaunty folk-rock ride that has certain festival appeal, and, quite frankly, could quite possibly cause a convention of undertakers to strike a jig.
The first tune, ‘One Man Folk Band,’ informs the listener of the record’s intent: This is quick-paced pub driven catchy folk music with drums, driving acoustic guitar, melodic vocals, and a lover of all things Lindisfarne and their “sleazy snack bar” of the song ‘Fog On The Tyne.’ The main Brophy, Neil, simply wants to play his folk music to the world-wide masses.And don’t forget: (the great) Roy Harper has a song called ‘One Man Rock And Roll Band’ on his classic Stormcock, so there’s a proud tradition here.
“Nice To Know” is, perhaps, the centerpiece of True Stories. Like everything on the record, it’s up-beat in its intent; yet the lyrics toss a spanner into progress’ cogs and proclaim (much like The Kinks’ We Are the Village Green Preservation Society) that it’s “nice to know some things stay the same and they’ll never fade away”. And this record does just that: It captures in melodic amber all the greats of the British folk movement, and then, thankfully, it sings its own tune.
These are songs of the road weary folk guy. Neil Brophy was born in England, travelled to Australia and America, and now resides in Denmark. So, these songs have lots of travel stamps and tread wear on the soles of their shoes. And just to be clear, Brophy’s Law is the new name for the group formally known as The Neil Brophy Band.
Several tunes echo in the footsteps of Australia’s brilliant folk-rock band Redgum. ‘Hitchin NZ’ is yet another folk song with a wide-open acoustic throttle, heavily accented vocals, and a nice punch of a melody. ‘Far Away’ brings a banjo and whistle into melodic fray. By the way, the music of Brophy’s Law swims in the wake of such great Redgum tunes ‘I Was Only 19,’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Me’. So, the comparison is high praise.
Yes, this album has a lot to offer for fans of Oysterband, The Saw Doctors, (the great) Runrig, and even the up-tempo moments of Al Stewart.
In truth, Neal Brothy fuses these sundry influences and manages to arrange the puzzle pieces into his own design. ‘Road To Mao’ frames its importance with tin whistle and dramatic percussion, while the lyrics delve into deeper psychological waters. Ah, and the mandolin simply sings with friendship. ‘Rag ‘n’ Bone,’ again, is a kind musical portrait and a lovely song that exists in the same orbit as ‘Mr. Bojangles’ and The Band’s own tribute to street people, ‘Rags & Bones’ from their Northern Lights – Southern Cross album. And the brilliant ‘Fear Of Fear’ jogs a friendly path while re-stating the always pertinent Lord Of The Flies theme that begs freedom from ‘The Beast,’ a beast that can, through fear, kill us all. Sometimes, music can sing an important song.
By the way (again!) the late Vin Garbutt slaked those critics who said he never did anything for the vegetarians with his tune ‘The Death of a Chickpea.’ Well, with equality in mind, finally comes an anthem for those of us who are addicted to record albums, called appropriately, ‘The Record Collector.’ The words “vinyl on my mind” sing a familiar tune, and because of those darn vinyl grooves, “I was never alone”. Good Vibrations, indeed!
It’s just an idea, but ‘Bears Go Fishing’ (despite its wonderful title) may be a bit slight. It’s an obvious festival hit. However, for an album proper, it’s a lightweight throwaway. It echoes the odd song out like ‘Country Jam’ from Magna Carta’s album, Songs From Wasties Orchard or Gordon Lightfoot’s concert favorite ‘The Auctioneer’ tagged at the end of Dream Street Rose.
Not only that, but the next track, ‘Viking Rover,’ is an obvious homage to The Clash, circa London’s Calling, and has enough humor, swagger, crazy mandolin, and good clean punk-folk-and rock ‘n’ roll theft to satiate Dickens’ Artful Dodger’s desire to snatch some rich guy’s snuffbox.
And then the final song, ‘Lucky People,’ makes a pilgrimage, again, to The Clash, rolls words and harmonica like Dylan, name checks The Stray Cats, and then, in the end, harmonizes like The Beatles did in their early mop-top days.
True Stories is a rare breed of an album that captures the energy a truly great festival band in a studio production. That’s not an easy thing to do. And the Brophy boys enjoy tradition; they play tradition; and like the god Janus, they push tradition forward, while at the same January Man time, love all the tunes that were lovingly played in the folk-rock past.
Artists’ website: www.neilbrophy.co.uk
‘The Viking Rover’ will be the next single: