Blakeley & Son’s Nuts & Bolts is (with the help of a feast of friends1) a colourful web of a folk record.
Not only that, but after all these years, it puts to use all that algebra I had to retake, year after year, with very little success. Case in point:
If A = B and B = C, then A = C.
Therefore, if I like Fairport’s new album Shuffle And Go, and Chris Leslie and Fairport like this record… (well, do the math!).
Mathematics aside, this is a full-bodied album that belies the simple name of Blakeley & Son (aka dad Garry and son Edward). As said, this album simply hums with both soft and Starry Night colours, with a nice combination of original and traditional tunes and songs.
The title instrumental, ‘Nuts & Bolts/Woman About The House/The Yellow Mini’, is a Garry violin driven stomper which pulses with a mandolin, percussion, a rhythmic acoustic guitar, and handclaps. You know, old John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee may not have killed Emma Keyse, but he certainly would have danced to the music. It’s a really nice folky ruckus.
‘Crooked Jack’ is the tragic worker’s tale with Dominic Behan’s words set to the traditional tune of ‘Star Of The County Down’. This is a much more melodic take of the song than (the great) Dick Gaughan’s rough-hewn version on his self-titled album. So, as Aldous Huxley says in the Forward to Brave New World, “You pays your money and you takes your chance”.
The Garry Blakeley original ‘Alfred And Matilda’ is a violin fed slow fire that touches pathos. An acoustic guitar echoes the sadness. And this ushers in the quietude of ‘Solitude At The Bay Of Barrow’, with a recorder in elegiac mood. This is pensive night stuff.
And kudos for taking on any Richard Thompson song. But ‘Poor Ditching Boy’ (from the brilliant Henry The Human Fly) gets a pretty good shake: Garry’s violin flits against a good vocal that does decent justice to RT’s original never to be equaled version. And there’s a really nice addition of the instrumental ‘Wired To The Moon’, that evokes an almost traditional Chinese Phases Of The Moon album touch. Folk music bleeds the same blood worldwide.
Then there’s more really nice folky ruckus. ‘The Mechanic/Cook In The Kitchen/The Congress Reel/The Tarbolton’ is instrumental bliss with Edward’s guitar bouncing around his father’s violin, until the ensemble of mandolin and percussion kick the tune into a tougher orbit, and to quote Ashley Hutchings, it’s “kickin’ up the sawdust”. ‘Dark Water/Show Me The Money’ slows the pace with a turbulent fiddle, which churns into an almost bluesy electric guitar solo, and ends the race with a jazzy acoustic guitar bit. It’s a clever change in the weather. ‘The Promise/Banish Misfortune’ is yet another flip of the traditional tune: That electric guitar explores space a bit, while the violin “kicks” up more “sawdust”, and a mandolin negotiates a peace deal betwixt the two.
‘Mary And The Soldier’ returns to folk beauty with a lovely Irish ballad. This is the stuff that spun in the grooves of countless British folk records in the 70’s, most of which catch pricey collector prices today.
A bit of a surprise: The final set, ‘Shooting With The Kids/William’s Reel/Spanner In The Works’, lights up with bagpipes and a tough electric sound, which butts against the ever-traditional echo of that lovely fiddle and mandolin. This is age old folk music that dips into some Fountain of Youth and somehow becomes urgent, once again.
You know, this coronavirus doesn’t like humanity very much. And I just read The Mental Floss History Of The World by Erik Sass and Steve Wiegand, which is An Irreverent Romp Through History’s Best Bits. Yeah, we humans have screwed up a lot. But the universe has to, at the very least, give us credit for a heaven full of beautiful melodies. And, thankfully, Blakeley & Son have written and touched all the better songs that still manage, despite the odds, to sing with ever-lasting folk “kickin’ up the sawdust” purity.
1Tom Curd, Dan Jefferies, Jon Ewen, Hugo Degenhardt, Russel Field, Roger Flack, James Gulliver, Phillip Henry, Phil Hudson, and John Spiers
Artists’ website: https://www.facebook.com/BlakeleyAndSon/