THE MAGPIE ARC – Glamour In The Grey (Collective/Perspective CP4FORCD)

Glamour In The GreyA cross-border quintet comprising Nancy Kerr, Martin Simpson, Findlay Napier, Alex Hunter and Tom Wright evoking folk rock from the late 1960s and early 1970s, given an at times progrock feel with electronic soundscapes, Glamour In The Grey is their much anticipated full-length debut, and a stridently impressive beast it is too.

It kicks off in muscular manner with the Kerr/Wright co-write ‘All I Planted’ that imagines Sandy Denny fronting Led Zeppelin, the traditional traces of the descending chords underpinning that she original wrote it for herself and Maddy Prior. In distinct contrast, sung and written by Napier, ‘Don’t Leave The Door Open’ marries an urgent driving martial drum beat with jittery electronics and a fierce electric guitar solo for what could be an ode to a failed relationship or a call for a second referendum on Scottish Independence.

The first of the traditional adaptations comes with Simpson’s rousing Band-styled take on ‘Pan Of Biscuits’ from the American Depression with Kerr setting her fiddle alight the song building to the massed voices close of the Moniak Mohr songwriters choir, Lady Nade and Boo Hewerdine among them.

Kerr herself has adapted three traditional numbers, the first being ‘Wassail’ given a steamrollering Black Sabbath guitar riff, the others lining up as a similarly heavy ‘Gay Goshawk’, a Scottish ballad in the maiden feigning death to win her lover tradition, with Adam Holmes on his handcrafted Fylde beltar guitar, and, another bird, the fiddle swirling, slow funeral march drum beat swaying ‘The Cutty Wren’.

Returning to Napier, the gutsy rocking AC/DC riffing ‘Tough As Teddy Gardner’ is a tribute to the West Hartlepool flyweight/bantamweight boxer who won several British and European titles between the 30s and 50s before going on to run a pub that also serves as a metaphor of how it’s hard to walk away and back down when you’re pushed against the ropes.

Wright on lead vocals with Kerr harmonising, ‘Long Gone’ (co-written by Holmes again on his Fylde), swims in the folk-filtered waters of 70s Yes and similar-minded outfits, obligatory guitar solo included, Simpson taking lead for a suitably atmospheric musical icicle-festooned take on Mike Waterson’s paean to winter, ‘Jack Frost’.

Glamour In The Grey ends back with Napier and his Maz O’Connor co-write, ‘I Ain’t Going Nowhere’, all dreamy retro groove intermingling country and jazz colours and a calm, soothing send-off after the concrete-smashing riffs earlier in the album. It might frighten the horses in the more conservative folk stables, but anyone who’s thought the genre really could do with a mosh pit will be enthralled.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website:

‘All I Planted’: