CARBONHOBO – Memoirs From the Crooked Road (Merry Hell Music MHMCD00221)

Memoirs From The Crooked RoadMemoirs From The Crooked Road is brought to you by Carbobhobo, aka Neil McCartney, who some will recognise as the fiddle player in Merry Hell and for those who remember the 90’s, as one of the founding members of The Big Geraniums.

This album is a collection of songs and tunes some of which were crafted as long ago as the 80’s, but most were done in the 90’s so it’s great to finally hear them all together on an album.  The songs reflect the mood of the places they were written which include places as far afield as New York, London, Switzerland, Ireland and Thailand.

It is lovely listen and starts off with the gentle lilt of ‘Chasing A Bluebird’ and we stay in a mellow mood with ‘Warm In The Bed’.  We then come to what I think is my favourite track ‘Somewhere Down The Northern Line’ and is one of the more upbeat songs on the album.

‘Blackberries’ reminds me of something I’ve heard before with its gentle fiddle and soulful vocal, but I can’t put my finger on it, that said it’s another great tune.  As is ‘Fifteen Miles To Buy Tobacco’ which gets the foot tapping and if I had a tub to thump, this is what I’d do it to!

There is more soulful vocal on ‘Audrey & The Old Caravan’ accompanied by some mandolin and guitar, which takes us into ‘Stranger’ which deals with how we see people as they grow older.

There is the Bothy Band arrangement of the tune ‘The Maids Of Michelstown’ which brings Neil’s fiddle playing to the fore, but also has a kind of Indian feel to it.  We then stay in the East with ’Road To Old Siam’, which is the most recently written tune, inspired by his son who was born in Thailand.

‘The Man In The Moon & The Heron’ was co-written with his fellow ‘The Big Geranium’s’ band member Jonas Read and is a rather fanciful ditty where I’m sure I hear the Man In The Moon asking to marry the Heron….

We then get transported to a New York basement bar with ‘John Coltrane On Bleeker Street’ which has a great sax part and the album finishes with the second instrumental (and longest) track ‘Seagull’, which leaves you wishing you were beside the sea.

Neil is helped out by guest artists Laura Forrest-Hay (violin), Jenny Wood Sullivan (backing vocals), Seanin Hawthornthwaite (mandolin), Lee Goulding (banjo), Jeff Hudgins (saxophone) and not forgetting Neil’s son Ben (piano). It was recorded in Neil’s studio.

It’s been a real pleasure reviewing Memoirs From The Crooked Road and it’s kept me company for many hours recently while I got on with admin stuff and the ironing!  I met Neil recently at Beardy Folk Festival (where Merry Hell were headlining) he was great company and as easy going as this album.

The press release talks of some live dates happening and if they are anywhere near Oxford I’ll certainly be going.

 Duncan Chappell

Artist’s website: www.merryhell.co.uk

‘Somewhere Down The Northern Line’ – official video:


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