Folklaw are a folk rock band made up of Nick Gibbs, vocals, fiddle and strings, Bryn Williams, vocals and guitar, Martin Vogwell, vocals, mandolin electric guitar and banjo, Jon Dowling vocals and bass guitar, Gaz Hunt, vocals, drums and percussion, Jacquelyn Hynes Irish flute and whistle and Emi McDade, vocals and piano. They are joined on We Will Rise by Lyndon Webb on mandolin and guitars and Paul Hutchinson on accordion.
The album starts as it means to go on with the title track ‘We Will Rise’ with its upbeat tempo. There is a chance to slow down for a moment with ‘Love Again’, then it’s back to the upbeat tempo again.
Subject matter for the album is a good folk mix of suffragettes, the environment, stories of the heart, mental health and life on tour. Song writing and vocal duties are shared amongst Nick, Bryn and Martin, though I must say I think my preference edged towards Nick’s songs, especially ‘Rocks Of The Burren’ and ‘Angels Wings’.
The album is nicely produced and if you’re a fan of fiddle driven foot tapping songs, then this is an album for you.
Paul Hutchinson – The Old Push & Pull / Belshazzar’s Feast (with Paul Sartin – Faustus / Bellowhead) Lyndon Webb (The Gerry Colvin Band), Jacquelyn Hynes (EFDSS / Morley College Folk & Flute lecturer) and Emi McDade a fellow rising act who’s gig experience so far takes in everything from Ronnie Scott’s to BBC stages; all join forces as guests on FolkLaw’s latest album.
Penned in the year of the 100th anniversary of votes for women, We Will Rise is FolkLaw’s latest release. The title track charts the life and times of Mary Macarthur, who campaigned for the rights of suffragettes, and also for the Women Chainmakers of Cradley Heath and the countries first ever minimum wage. Like all good folk albums it then follows a journey, taking in stories of love and loss, the environment, and life on the road as a band – something familiar to these touring musicians who perform in concert across the U.K. and Europe.
FolkLaw are current rising stars in the folk, rock & roots scene, and pull off a rare thing in music – they are a true cross-genre band. Equally at home in music venues as they are in folk cubs, the festival scene and almost anything in between!
Uniquely, both the song writing and lead vocals are shared amongst the core band as the album progresses, and there is a depth and intensity to the vocal harmonies and instrumentation throughout the album. It’s a reflection of the bond between the band members, which envelops FolkLaw and its committed fans.
That core band have already gone from strength to strength with previous releases The Tales That They Tell and Smokey Joe, and are considered even stronger with the addition of such well respected guest musicians on this latest release. It has the band tipped for similar accolades and awards with We Will Rise.
The accordion and flute weave through the album adding a sea-faring feel to ‘Folky Pirates’, and an Irish lilt to ‘The Rocks Of The Burren’, with Paul Hutchinson (accordion) and Jacquelyn Hynes (flute/whistle) bringing nuance and glitter to these and other tracks across the album.
The composition skills of lead frontman and songwriter Nick Gibbs and producer come musical contributor, Lyndon Webb, are demonstrated in the subtle instrumentation behind tracks throughout the album.
It will come as no surprise to those that have followed the band over their ten-year career, that every voice and instrument form the “mighty wall of folk” that FolkLaw are famous for is apparent in title track ‘We Will Rise’. It’s an inspiring anthem with all the bands usual virtuoso performance, and even the mild-mannered mandolin and acoustic guitarist, Bewellian frontman, Martin Vogwell is let loose as the electric guitar soars across the instrumental break of the song.
The band don’t forgo their sensitivity and soul as the album moves on, with songs such as ‘Love Again’ and the ‘Last Days Of Summer’. Both are more acoustic in style. ‘Love Again’ is one of three songs penned and sung by Bryn Williams, and the ‘Last Days Of Summer’ sees the first use of Martin Vogwell’s voice in the lead vocal role.
Music press and music fans alike have become accustomed to the solid rhythm section upon which the unique FolkLaw sound is built. We Will Rise doesn’t disappoint in that area either with long time performer and contributor Jon Dowling playing bass guitar to Gaz Hunt’s percussion; the platform from which Hunt also sends his soaring backing vocals.
The bands coming of age is highlighted by the inclusion on the album of the final song, the other writing contribution of Martin Vogwell’s, ‘One Day At A Time’. Less secure bands might have left the track on the cutting room floor. FolkLaw however don’t shy away from either the topic of the song, mental health, or its stripped back nature. It’s a testament to the passion, ethics, and subject matters that mean so much to this band, that they can’t leave them unsung. It shows the confidence of the band in their music and their listeners, as they switch between thoughtful song and throw-yourself-about folk. They say after all that FolkLaw’s music is to get your feet tapping and your mind thinking.
We Will Rise is surely to become classic FolkLaw and seems likely to see the band do as the album suggests – and Rise.
After releasing his debut album, Nation’s Pride, under the name Folklaw, Nick Gibbs has now put together a full band to go with that name and progress to a second CD. The line-up comprises guitarists Bryn Williams and Lyndon Webb with Gaz Hunt and, on loan from ColvinQuarmby, Marty Fitzgibbon on backing vocals and percussion. Their sound is light enough for small venues with Gibbs’ fiddle and Webb’s mandolin providing lead lines but also robust enough for festival gigs.
All bar one of the songs are by Nick and most address social concerns, sometimes on a grand scale like ‘Bethlehem’ which considers the Israel-Palestine conflict particularly in times of the fragile ‘peace’ which is the usual state of affairs. ‘Hope And Glory’ is an apology for the years of slavery and other songs consider the flooding caused by ill-planned building and the loss of horse chestnut trees to a virus which, as with sudden oak death and ash die back, we seem powerless to defeat.
As a songwriter Nick wears his heart on his sleeve and his more personal songs like ‘Gypsy Rain’ and ‘Seeds Of Freedom’ stand out from the crowd. If he has a fault, it is that occasionally he overwrites a song – you can almost see him squeezing one more thought into a lyric when perhaps its omission would improve its flow. It’s a minor point, however, and doesn’t detract from a fine album.