MOONRAKERS – Tides (own label)

TidesFirst of all, I’d like to make it clear that we’re not reviewing Tides because one of the key members of Moonrakers is also a member of our writing team. No, we’re reviewing it because they are one of the very few bands to acknowledge Francis McPeake’s claim to ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ which makes them alright in our book.

Tides is the band’s fifth album and the first by the current line-up: Jon Bennett, Liz van Santen, Sarah Fell and Eleanor Dunsdon. At first hearing I was tempted to describe it as folk-rock without the rock – there is no bass and percussion is restricted to bodhran and cajón – because the band imparts an upbeat, positive feeling to acoustic music. The instrumental line-up includes bouzouki, Celtic harp, concertina and five-string fiddle which gives great variety to the music.

Moonrakers’ repertoire mixes original and traditional songs, tunes and a somewhat unexpected cover of Huddie Ledbetter’s ‘Kisses Sweeter Than Wine’. The opener is Bennett’s ‘The Singer’, a sort of post-protest song, perhaps a nod of acknowledgment to Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs and others of their ilk who took their songs to the streets. That is followed by Scott Skinner’s ‘Glenlivet’ featuring Eleanor’s harp and Liz’s fiddle. Next is a traditional song, ‘The Ploughman’, and Moonrakers have set out their stall for our delectation.

Other significant tracks include Bennett’s ‘Black Beach’ about redundant Northumbrian miners scraping a bit of extra money by gathering sea coal and the Appalachian ‘Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies’ featuring Sarah on lead vocals, a role she shares with Jon. Sarah’s voice is clear and strong and one of the band’s great assets. Finally, they take ‘Thousands Or More’ at a cracking pace, quite unlike the way it can be dragged down in mass singarounds.

I think the description I was searching for earlier is “sparkling” which is really what this album is.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.moonrakers.net

‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ – live: