BROPHY’S LAW – True Stories (own label)

True StoriesBrophy’s Law’s album, True Stories, is a jaunty folk-rock ride that has certain festival appeal, and, quite frankly, could quite possibly cause a convention of undertakers to strike a jig.

The first tune, ‘One Man Folk Band,’ informs the listener of the record’s intent: This is quick-paced pub driven catchy folk music with drums, driving acoustic guitar, melodic vocals, and a lover of all things Lindisfarne and their “sleazy snack bar” of the song ‘Fog On The Tyne.’ The main Brophy, Neil, simply wants to play his folk music to the world-wide masses.And don’t forget: (the great) Roy Harper has a song called ‘One Man Rock And Roll Band’ on his classic Stormcock, so there’s a proud tradition here.

“Nice To Know” is, perhaps, the centerpiece of True Stories. Like everything on the record, it’s up-beat in its intent; yet the lyrics toss a spanner into progress’ cogs and proclaim (much like The Kinks’ We Are the Village Green Preservation Society) that it’s “nice to know some things stay the same and they’ll never fade away”. And this record does just that: It captures in melodic amber all the greats of the British folk movement, and then, thankfully, it sings its own tune.

These are songs of the road weary folk guy. Neil Brophy was born in England, travelled to Australia and America, and now resides in Denmark. So, these songs have lots of travel stamps and tread wear on the soles of their shoes. And just to be clear, Brophy’s Law is the new name for the group formally known as The Neil Brophy Band.

Several tunes echo in the footsteps of Australia’s brilliant folk-rock band Redgum. ‘Hitchin NZ’ is yet another folk song with a wide-open acoustic throttle, heavily accented vocals, and a nice punch of a melody. ‘Far Away’ brings a banjo and whistle into melodic fray. By the way, the music of Brophy’s Law swims in the wake of such great Redgum tunes ‘I Was Only 19,’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter To Me’. So, the comparison is high praise.

Yes, this album has a lot to offer for fans of Oysterband, The Saw Doctors, (the great) Runrig, and even the up-tempo moments of Al Stewart.

In truth, Neal Brothy fuses these sundry influences and manages to arrange the puzzle pieces into his own design. ‘Road To Mao’ frames its importance with tin whistle and dramatic percussion, while the lyrics delve into deeper psychological waters. Ah, and the mandolin simply sings with friendship. ‘Rag ‘n’ Bone,’ again, is a kind musical portrait and a lovely song that exists in the same orbit as ‘Mr. Bojangles’ and The Band’s own tribute to street people, ‘Rags & Bones’ from their Northern Lights – Southern Cross album. And the brilliant ‘Fear Of Fear’ jogs a friendly path while re-stating the always pertinent Lord Of The Flies theme that begs freedom from ‘The Beast,’ a beast that can, through fear, kill us all. Sometimes, music can sing an important song.

By the way (again!) the late Vin Garbutt slaked those critics who said he never did anything for the vegetarians with his tune ‘The Death of a Chickpea.’ Well, with equality in mind, finally comes an anthem for those of us who are addicted to record albums, called appropriately, ‘The Record Collector.’ The words “vinyl on my mind” sing a familiar tune, and because of those darn vinyl grooves, “I was never alone”. Good Vibrations, indeed!

It’s just an idea, but ‘Bears Go Fishing’ (despite its wonderful title) may be a bit slight. It’s an obvious festival hit. However, for an album proper, it’s a lightweight throwaway. It echoes the odd song out like ‘Country Jam’ from Magna Carta’s album, Songs From Wasties Orchard or Gordon Lightfoot’s concert favorite ‘The Auctioneer’ tagged at the end of Dream Street Rose.

Not only that, but the next track, ‘Viking Rover,’ is an obvious homage to The Clash, circa London’s Calling, and has enough humor, swagger, crazy mandolin, and good clean punk-folk-and rock ‘n’ roll theft to satiate Dickens’ Artful Dodger’s desire to snatch some rich guy’s snuffbox.

And then the final song, ‘Lucky People,’ makes a pilgrimage, again, to The Clash, rolls words and harmonica like Dylan, name checks The Stray Cats, and then, in the end, harmonizes like The Beatles did in their early mop-top days.

True Stories is a rare breed of an album that captures the energy a truly great festival band in a studio production. That’s not an easy thing to do. And the Brophy boys enjoy tradition; they play tradition; and like the god Janus, they push tradition forward, while at the same January Man time, love all the tunes that were lovingly played in the folk-rock past.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ website:  www.neilbrophy.co.uk

‘The Viking Rover’ will be the next single:

SINGLES BAR 28 – A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 28Leviathan! by BLACKBEARD’S TEA PARTY is an energetic and accomplished recording by these York-based folk-rockers that did strike some nostalgic (power) chords, with electric guitar, bass and two drummers driving the folkier fiddle and melodeon. There are versions of two traditional songs – ‘The Bonny Ship The Diamond’ and ‘The Weary Whaling Grounds’ – that you may remember from Bert Lloyd’s similarly entitled whaling song collection from 1967, but the tone here is very different. Also featured are two home-brewed instrumentals – ‘DFLN’ and ‘The Lost Triangle/The Lone Pancake’, both highly reminiscent of 60s-70s folk rock – and the very effective song ‘Leviathan’, based on the story of albino sperm whale Mocha Dick that partly inspired Moby Dick. Not for purists, but well worth a listen.
www.blackbeardsteaparty.com

Brother WindGNOSS, once a duo, is now a four-piece hailing from Glasgow’s fertile hotbed of fine musicians, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Their four-track EP, Brother Wind, provides a pleasingly versatile balance of two songs and two tunes. The title track hits with an immediate Disney-soundtrack catchiness before opening up its folky heart with some terrific harmonies. From the snaking groove of ‘The Closet Bodhrán’ to the vigorous reels of ‘Moul Head’ via the sensitive rendering of ‘My Ship’, it’s very easy to understand why this band is being so hotly tipped as one to watch.
www.gnossmusic.com

Amy GoddardA self-released EP of songs connected to mining, at the heart of Welsh singer-songwriter AMY GODDARD’s Green Is The Colour lies her six-minute Remembering Aberfan, a charity single released in 2016 to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster when a slag heap in the Merythr valley slid killing 116 children and 28 adults in the nearby school and neighbouring buildings. A stark, acoustic number with a mournful backing choir, it’s a haunting listen.

However, the tracks that surround it are no less strong. Initially sung unaccompanied, the title track was inspired by the arsenic mines of Devon and Cornwall, the biggest of which was owned by the family of William Morris, its poisonous green pigment used in his iconic wallpapers. There’s a brace of well-known covers, the first being ‘North Country Blues’, an early Dylan number about the closure of the iron ore mines and the effect on the mining community, a history repeated in Wales in the 1980s, the other a chiming acoustic guitar waltz through Merle Travis’ ‘Dark As A Dungeon’.

The perils of working underground inform the sprightly self-penned folksy strum ‘Underground Road’ which, featuring Hannah Fisher on fiddle, charts the life of a mining community. Sharing a poisoning theme with the opening number, sung with just hand percussion accompaniment, the final track has Goddard has duetting with Andy Adams on ‘Blue Murder’, an Alistair Hulett song about asbestos mining.
http://www.amygoddardmusic.co.uk/

Al ShieldsNow backed with The Delahayes, Edinburgh-based troubadour, AL SHIELDS returns with a new collection of freshly squeezed Americana, in the form of the Fire On Holy Ground EP, due for release on Shields’ own label, Al Shields Music (ASM004), on April 30th.

The band-backed electric sound is a slight deviation from Shields previous all-acoustic efforts, but with the same old glimmers and shades of Ryan Adams and co. it is a most enjoyable listen. From the disc’s half-dozen numbers, ‘Counting the Hours’, ‘Kick Your Feet Up’ and ‘The Boys in the Band’ are among the stand outs, but then, there is very little to dislike about this record.
https://www.alshields.com/

Rag’N’Bone (And The Coal Rippers Daughter) is an upcoming EP from singer-songwriter NEIL BROPHY. So far only a single comprising two versions of the title track has been released. The song is set in 19th century London: Rag’N’Bone is obvious and apparently a coal ripper is or was a man who dug out the rock above a coal seam and shored up the walls and roof. Who knew? The story is of a love story set among the squalor – “my dog died, too, and you can have his bones” – as two young people set out for a life among the mudlarks at Blackfriars. The acoustic version features Neil on guitar, harmonica and kick-drum while the radio edit is a full band version with a Levellers feel about it.
www.neilbrophy.co.uk

KIM LOWINGS & THE GREENWOOD have a new single in the form of the five-minute plus ‘New Moon’, a track that doesn’t feature on the recent Wild & Wicked Youth album,. Driven by a persistent repeated drum pattern from Tim Rogers and Dave Sutherland’s throbbing upright bass with a hypnotic circling guitar line by Andrew Lowings and Kim on dulcimer, it’s a nod towards late 60s/early 70s progressive folk rock of outfits like The Trees, Bread Love and Dreams and the pre-epic Renaissance rather than the more traditional inclinations of her other material.
https://www.kimlowings.com/

Jake AaronThat’s a great cover picture. ‘Give Me Your Horse’ is the new single from genre-bending guitarist JAKE AARON. The guitar is somewhat submerged here with Steve Lodder’s Hammond and Steve Waterman’s trumpet taking the lead over the bass and drums of Guy Pratt and Marc Parnell. You’re forever expecting a vocal line to appear but for all that it remains resolutely instrumental.
www.jakeaaron.com