Stick In The Wheel’s debut album From Here is a raw, fresh take on English Folk music. Their now-trademark abrasive delivery of both original and traditional tracks, is not bland retroism, or empty nostalgia, but a voice linking now to then. Addressing issues that still have relevance today, re-visiting traditions long-lost, as well as those disappearing right before us, in a way that has more in common with Sleaford Mods than with Bellowhead. A thousand miles away from waistcoats and wistful ladies, the songs are roughed up down dark alleys with lyrics that are direct, honest, and caustic, but also eloquently poetic. The band is spearheaded by Nicola Kearey’s fierce uncompromising vocal delivery, accompanied by Fran Foote’s harmony vocal and underpinned by sparse taut arrangements. From Here follows a handful of acclaimed EPs and a recent 7” released through Static Caravan this spring.
Brought up in the thriving culture of working class London and cutting their teeth in its diverse musical landscape (Dobro player Ian also producing music for GhostPoet, Context and for labels such as XL, Brownswood and Cosmic Bridge), they now bring those influences and attitudes to their traditional music. Stripped back to their bare components, the songs speak for themselves without ornament. With plaudits pouring in for their early releases from Tom Robinson, John Kennedy, Mark Radcliffe, Gideon Coe, Joe Boyd, Jack Sharp (Wolf People) and Om Unit, these are aggressive and intentionally raw recordings, cobbled together in warehouses, kitchens, and wherever they can, telling tales of everyday life: carboot-swindlers, lorry drivers and London rioters, sitting seamlessly against traditional songs of prisons, hammer-wielding blacksmiths and 18th century madhouses. Lead singer Nicola Kearey comments:
“We see this music as part of our culture, we’re not pretending to be chimney sweeps or 17th century dandies. A lot of people are really disconnected from their past, and this is part of what we’re addressing – getting people to reconnect with it, and realise there are parallels to be drawn from life 100 or 200 years ago. We make this music because we have to.”
Whether these be tracks like the hard and rhythmical ‘Common Ground’, which addresses the continual erosion of people’s rights (recorded in a warehouse amongst pallets and boxes on a cold October night) or starkly beautiful ‘Hasp’ and its use of a tethered horse as a metaphor for societal shackles and loss of liberty, an acerbic bite threads everything together. The album finishes with three ghostly, atmospheric tracks. ‘By Of River’ is based on a chance meeting with Alan Moore and his book Voice of the Fire. It starts a trio of songs about a procession of lost people, mysterious rituals, and the remains of a past culture, with ‘Who Knows’ and a soundscape reprise closing the album.
Stick In The Wheel are the most relevant and vital band in the UK right now. It’s not about genres or labels any more, it’s about standing up and being counted. From Here is an important cornerstone in England’s musical lineage, with a proud rallying cry that’s impossible to ignore.
Artists’ website: http://www.stickinthewheel.com