Tempest’s new album, Going Home, is alive with Celtic and Scandinavian folk nuances, which are all framed with really nice electric eclectic gusto. It’s just an idea, but so many of these festival Celtic (and oft time punk!) bands just turn the amps to ten and then play really loud jigs, reels, and songs that sound like Pogues wannabe covers.
Not so here. The first instrumental tune, ‘Mrs. Preston’s Favourite’, buzzes with Lee Corbie-Wells’ fiddle, electric (Thank you, Nikolay Georgiev!) guitar, and rock engine room of Hugh Caley and Adolfo Lazo. Of course main Tempest guy Lief Sorbye provides a folky pulse (with nuance aplenty!) with his mandolin. Apparently, this album moves the band further into a fusion of Scandinavian and its traditional Celtic sound. As a reference, the sound is similar to the great Swedish band, Hoven Droven (sans sax) yet never forgets the quick step of Fairport Connection, circa ‘Dirty Linen’ on their brilliant Full House album.
Then, the band ups the drama in their cover of Roger McGuinn’s ‘Jolly Roger’ (Yeah, that’s guy from The Byrds!) with a wonderous wah-wah solo. This sort of, for want of a better term, historical buccaneer song has long been part of the Tempest template. The song, ‘Captain Morgan’ from their Bootleg album, has been a big bit on their various celebrations of their many successful folk rock albums.
The lovely sounds continue: ‘Shepherd’s Daughter’ is based a traditional song (of seduction, of course!) and truly echoes the sound of all those wonderful bands (like Hedgehog Pie!) that followed in the wake of Steeleye Span’s successful big-time single ‘All Around My Hat’ and the sadly unsuccessful Fairport Convention’s 45 rpm attempt at radio glory, ‘Now Be Thankful’.
Then, and this is a big deal, ‘Dark Lover Song For A Vampire’ truly evokes the Celtic soul of (my beloved!) Horslips found in the grooves of their very best The Tain and Dancehall Sweethearts vinyl moments. That’s a huge complement.
Just so you know, the band terms this music “Euro Celtic”. Lief’s Norwegian roots pay homage to his past with ‘Hjemreise’ (aka ‘Going Home’) and is a dead-ringer for the wonderful 70’s folk rock albums that came out of Scandinavia in the ultra-creative 70’s which are now reissued on CD and (expensive!) vinyl with bands like Prudence, Folk & Rackare, and (the very excellent!) Folque. Yeah (again!) this is the real deal. And, it’s just another idea, but the all too brief guitar solo smacks of Andy Powell and Wishbone Ash, circa Argus. Ditto for ‘The Optimist’, which was a “tune from an ancient manuscript borrowed from the National Norwegian Library in Oslo many years ago”, and it is given a very modern and joyous electric ride. And lest we forget, Ashley ‘Tyger’ Huchings has been doing the same thing for a wonderfully long time. And there’s a bit of brilliant Caribbean percussion that pushes the tune into a world-wide orbit.
By the way (and this is an unsolicited unpaid advertisement): A current band, Fribo, with one album on the always excellent Fellside label, cross-pollinates Celtic Scottish and Norwegian music with all acoustic purity.
But, oh my – the Lee Corbie-Wells and Lief sung ‘De Tva Systrarna’ (aka ‘The Two Sisters’) gets an epic folk-rock re-birth that rivals the Pentangle and Clannad versions. Again, there’s more drama and more heavy electric guitar heaven, all of which descends into a “Euro-Celtic’ really nice melodic twist that’s not dissimilar to (and I say this with great respect) Richard Thompson’s ‘Nobody’s Wedding’ coda, both of which strut with odd dance floor tradition.
Two thoughts: Richard Thompson guests on (the before-mentioned) Folk & Rackare tune, ‘Inga Litimor’, which sounds a lot like a really nice Fairport song; and as a personal note, I have always wondered, exactly, “why is the wild boy chopping up the floor?”
That said, Lee Corbie-Wells sings another song, ‘The Devil And The Farmer’, which raises a Wicker Man effigy that the band is eager to ignite. This is hot Celtic music.
Out of the ashes, ‘Dream Morris’ simply kicks up a lot of sawdust.
The final song, ‘Pai Sine Honer’ (aka ‘Paul’s Chickens’), huffs and puffs with an earthy harmonica and a jazzy guitar interlude, and it sings the sad song about the loss of chickens to the devious fox, details the attempted revenge by Paul (after all, they were his chickens!), and ultimately tells of the cunning fox’s escape. Perhaps, that’s just the deal with life. But, given that, the tune simply jumps with folk fun.
This record, indeed, is about Going Home. It touches so many warm roots, with clever rock passion, the odd fiddle tune, and a Scandinavian Celtic vibe. And while the devil may well be in the details, great folk melodies are found in the lovely nuances, that are in, as (my always beloved) Horslips once sang about “the mystery of the lake when the waster’s still”, and perhaps more urgently, in “the laughter in the twilight you can hear beyond the hill”. Tempest’s Going Home, manages, somehow, in our very modern world, to sing with both that “mystery” and that always illusive Celtic “twilight laughter”.
Artists’ website: http://www.tempestmusic.com/
‘Jolly Roger’ – official video: