CARDBOARD FOX – Topspin (own label, CARRIVICKSCD09)

TopspinFeaturing the shared lead vocals of sisters Charlotte and Laura Carrivick (who also perform as a duo), with backing provided by Joe Tozer and John Breese, Topspin is the Bath quartet’s third release and second album, a meld of English traditional folk and American bluegrass influences built around the core instrumentation of fiddle, mandolin, guitar and double bass augmented here and there with banjo, lap steel, trumpet and electric guitar.

Charlotte on lead, the opening cut, ‘Empty Skies’, lays out their folk-Americana in fine style, hints of Celtic influences mingling with the Appalachian backwoods while ‘Dynamite’ is a gloriously infectious burst of folk pop with pizzicato fiddle and throbbing double-bass fleshed out by some nimble acoustic fingerwork.

Elsewhere, the self-penned material includes sprightly instrumental showcase ‘Nelly’, the rippling acoustic fretwork of the traditional flavoured ‘Awful As Silence’, sweetly sung by Laura who occasionally reminds me of Jess Morgan, and, another with a traditional bluegrassy mien, ‘Until The Dawn’ with ‘Roll Away’ following a similar path but with more of a hoedown feel.

The album also sees them dipping their toes in different waters too, first, led by Breese’s bass, on ‘Right Swiper’, a playfully jazzy folk account of Tinder dating that includes the line “you’re the Wallace to my Gromit” and then the 20s swing feel of ‘On Your Side’ followed directly by a cover of Owl City’s synth pop ‘Fireflies,’ here arranged for plinking violins and mandolin with Josh Clark on programming.

It’s one of two covers, the other being a simple mandolin, bass and scratchy violin arrangement of Gillian Welch’s dark folk blues ‘Tear My Stillhouse Down’, the album ending with everyone pitching on to write the easy and airy Americana lap steel shaded skippingly rhythmic ‘Ghosts’. Reportedly, their last album saw Bill Oddie shed a tear of joy. This should have him weeping buckets.

Mike Davies


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‘Ghosts’ – official video:

STRAWBS – Acoustic Gold (Witchwood Media WMCD 2052)

As the blurb says, The Strawbs have created a unique niche for their progressive folk-rock sound but, stripped bare it is the ‘acoustic’ element that shows how strong these basic concepts were. Therefore, trawling their impressive back catalogue is by no means an indulgence but a necessity and as I listen once again to “Ghosts”, “Grace Darling”, and “A Glimpse Of Heaven” I marvel at the majesty of it all. There’s an inherent clarity from the instruments that drives everything along on a bed of string based accompaniment to Dave Cousins tortured vocals whether it be the chiming of his dulcimer/autoharp and banjo, Chas Cronk’s 12-string guitar or the lead lines provided by Brian Willoughby, Dave Lambert and even the inclusion of Ian Cutler’s fiddle is well placed for dramatic effect. OK, so the pomp element that always typified a Strawbs performance (much like it did with the Alan Parsons Project) may, on first hearing sound a little over the top at the end of the day it is these artistic flourishes that provides the listener with something more substantial than the often derided term ‘folk’ could ever hope to achieve. By the way, for those collectors out there, there are three unreleased tracks included as a bonus. 

PETE FYFE

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