Ray Cooper aka Chopper is leaving Oysterband…

We have just had word that Ray Cooper, also known as Chopper, is leaving Oysterband to pursue a career as a solo singer-songwriter.

Ray says; ” After 24 years of constant touring and recording, it is not easy to give up the friends, the fans and the life I have known. We shared a lot of ups and downs and have grown together to be more like a family than a band. However, since the release of my solo album ‘Tales of Love War and Death by Hanging’ a couple of years ago, I knew that a door had been opened for me and another, more challenging path lay waiting. I have to sing”.

His last show with OB will be February 23rd in Treorchy, Wales, which is also the last date of the highly successful Ragged Kingdom tour featuring Oysterband with June Tabor.

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Artist’s website: www.raycooper.org

JUNE TABOR and OYSTERBAND – The Union Chapel London 19th April 2012

Someone once said that a typical June Tabor concert review went thusly: “June Tabor sang some songs and everybody cried”. There is some truth in that but on stage with Oysterband things are different. There is darkness in the songs, yes, but here June was sharp, jokey and making points with a surgical precision before anyone noticed what she was doing.

They opened with ‘Bonny Bunch Of Roses’ and played all of Ragged Kingdom as well as four songs from Freedom And Rain and some Oysterband “solos”. With producer Al Scott on bass and guitar, plus all the extra instruments they have added the men in black and the lady in red have enormous flexibility to play just about anything from the gorgeous unaccompanied harmonies of ‘When I Was No But Sweet Sixteen’ to the acid rock of their second encore, ‘White Rabbit’.

The second set was preceded by the presentation of the fRoots Critics’ Award by Stephen Mangan (it’s probably compulsory to refer to him as TV’s Dirk Gently) – well, we were in Islington. He made a witty and brief speech before June explained how they hold a grudge in Somerset as an introduction to ‘Judas Was A Red-Headed Man’ followed by my favourite track from the album, ‘Son David’.

I must mention the sound engineer. I was not in an advantageous position but the sound was excellent. The Union Chapel acoustic properties are such that you can feel the kick drum vibrating through the pews, adding a sometimes visceral bass immerses you in the music and the acoustic guitar and kantele were sparklingly clear.

Dai Jeffries

Performance: 19th Aril 2012

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Artist Web Link: www.oysterband.co.uk

JUNE TABOR & OYSTERBAND – Ragged Kingdom (Topic Records TSCD585)

No one could ever accuse the ‘oysters’ of not opening up and here, fitting tighter than a pair of latex gloves on a surgeon’s hands June Tabor and Oysterband come together for a celebratory recording after a 21 year hiatus.  Although they never split up per se the quintet embody everything that is good about folk-rock with plenty of attitude particularly on the opening track “Bonny Bunch Of Roses” where the almost Spaghetti Western arrangement would make Ennio Morricone proud…not yee-ha perhaps but pretty close. Some marriages are made in Heaven and what better juxtaposition than Tabor and John Jones to convey the gory blood-fest that is Child’s ballad no.13 here re-titled “Son David”. The almost jaunty melody provided by Alan Prosser’s guitar, Ray ‘Chopper’ Cooper’s mandolin and Ian Telfer’s fiddle underpinned by Dill Davies somewhat muted drums and producer Al Scott’s bass makes the story a more than palatable experience and one that I’m sure will have the band’s enthusiastic audience joining the refrain. Of course, it’s not only traditional fare that receives the Oyster treatment as their acoustic version of Ian Curtis “Love Will Tear Us Apart” provides (for me at least and with no offence intended) an uncluttered, even cultured experience that was never evident on the original Joy Division recording. So, a little something for everyone whatever your taste in music that could see the band make appearances on stage at Glastonbury or, just as easily Aled Jones radio show. The British ‘folk’ scene owes a debt of gratitude to artists such as these and we should be grateful the band are still bringing home gold…unlike some of our athletes at the moment. 

PETE FYFE

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Artist Web Link: www.oysterband.co.uk