NOTHING CONCRETE – The Haberdasher’s Voyage (Round Flat Records)

The Haberdasher's VoyageThere are some albums that, on first hearing, make you exclaim “oh, my” or words to that effect. The Haberdasher’s Voyage is one such – the opening is a real blast! Nothing Concrete are a six-piece international band featuring brass, fiddle, banjo and double-bass who joyfully disregard genres in pursuit of music that’s so much fun. They are based in southern France but their leader and songwriter, Fergus McKay, hails from Scotland.

The first track, ‘The Tale Of Pandora And Mr Hyde’ continues the “oh, my” factor. It reminded me oddly of Screaming Lord Sutch but where Sutch knew it was all a joke, McKay takes it seriously although his witty lyrics sometimes suggest otherwise: “I keep searching for a genie but I keep finding Mr Hyde” is the repeated refrain. ‘Sit Tight’ also has a “creeping round the crypt” feel and McKay sounds even more like Sutch with talk of rotten coffins and vampires.

‘Dear Liza’ is a take on the old Pennsylvania Dutch song ‘There’s A Hole In My Bucket’ expanding on Henry’s complaints and centering on his knife – I half expected him to plunge it into her before the song ended but she survived. I have to admit that I had to research ‘Provolone’. I thought it was a cheese and indeed it is but it’s also derogatory slang in the USA for people who act flashily Italian. Knowing that, the song makes sense and the object of the singer’s affections sees right through him – accompanied by brass, accordion and gypsy fiddle. Of course, the fact that Fergus met his wife in exactly these circumstances suggests that he won out in the end.

‘Deeper’ is also a bit odd; I think it’s about the inevitability of death no matter what you do in life – which leads neatly into ‘Fine Desolation’. ‘Sycamore’ is an expression of a philosophy of laziness and brings the album towards a gentle conclusion. Except that ‘Absence Of A Strategy’ isn’t really gentle but it’s another admirable philosophy.

The Haberdasher’s Voyage is a rather brilliant album. The songs are witty and inventive and the music is irrepressible. Give it a go.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Provolone’ – official video:

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