IAN CARR & THE VARIOUS ARTISTS – Who He? (Reveal Records REVEAL046CDX)

Who HeIan Carr is, as I’m sure you know, the guitarist who has been heard mostly on other people’s records; such names as Kathryn Tickell, Kate Rusby, Kris Drever and Eddi Reader. He’s taken top billing in several duos including an association with Simon Thoumire and a number of fairly obscure bands but he’s taken quite a while to produce this solo project from his home in Sweden.

Of course he’s not really solo. His band, The Various Artists, are a multi-national, multi-instrumental line-up that reads rather like a premier league team sheet with omnichord, kora and violino grande among the featured sounds. The opening track, ‘I’ll Call You’, is fairly conventional apart from the almost obscured vocals with Ian initially playing something like a rag-time melody with the whole ensemble pitching in and Ian switching to trumpet in the middle. Some of what Ian writes has the repetitive, hypnotic quality of the music that Simon Jeffes wrote for The Penguin Café Orchestra although he isn’t constrained by Jeffes adherence to strict mathematical patterns. The title track and ‘The Beans War’ employ this technique to particular effect. There are two actual songs sung by Maria Jonsson and Carina Normansson in English and, I presume, Swedish. There is one oddity, ‘Talking Frances’, which features Frances Carr impersonating Alan Bennett but whether it’s a true story or not (or even supposed to be Bennett) I wouldn’t like to say.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this album. There is certainly no pointless noodling nor screaming electric from a man who has been professionally restricted to the acoustic instrument. There is excellent playing and innovative ideas – enough to make Who He? a bit special.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.iancarr.com

Ian Carr & The Various Artists – ‘Road Drill’:


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