THE BARA BARA BAND – The Seeds Inside (The Grapes Upon The Vine) (Singaround Records Sing06)

The Seeds InsideFrom the opening rolling guitar of ‘Mists Of Time’, The Bara Bara Band’s second album, The Seeds Inside (The Grapes Upon The Vine), makes itself comfortably at home. The album’s (rather lengthy) title derives from this first song with its Appalachian-influenced jaunty fiddle/banjo interplay and its celebration of heritage and bloodlines.

Traditional music is well-represented and thoughtfully arranged here, sitting comfortably alongside original compositions. A wholly instrumental take on ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’ picks out the melody line on banjo, over a drone-like fiddle, before whisking up into a lively rendition of ‘Paddy On The Turnpike’.‘The Barley And The Rye’, delivered a capella, ends with the two voices repeating the first verse in a diminuendo that ends up just barely a whisper: wittily emphasising the song’s dual comic and cautionary aspects.

A very successful – and highly catchy – arrangement of a broadside in praise of Samuel Plimsoll, describes his campaign to regulate safe ship cargo-loading levels (in the face of serious hostility from ship-owning MPs), a change which undoubtedly saved many sailors’ lives.

Child ballad ‘What Put The Blood’ begins with a staccato lyrical delivery over a percussive beat and scraping fiddle. Gradually, the instrumentation grows in force and volume, taking a dip into folk rock before closing with an oddly eerie vocal coda.

The band’s rhythmic capabilities are also on show in its original songs, like ‘Wandle’, a surprising hymn to a South London river, with its delightful tick-tock rhythm and moody fiddle. ‘Before It’s Too Late’ contrasts jagged angularity with an altogether plumper, richer accompaniment.

Modern life is contemplated in ‘Telling Me I Should Know’, as the endless, inescapable methods of communication become the story; the original message seemingly becoming incidental. ‘On The M25’ takes an imaginative diversion from road rage and traffic jams into a calming pastoral idyll of free-roaming animals and bicycle rides.

Grimmer realities are wryly critiqued in ‘More And More’ a satirical observation on capitalism and avarice, that is nicely partnered with ‘Twin Sisters’, a banjo-led skirmish that acts as a palate-cleanser to wash away the preceding polemic. Even more heartfelt is ‘All Look The Same’ a plea for humanity and empathy over the plight of refugees. The warmly percussive tones of the cajon form a suitably muted backdrop for this downbeat song.

Closer ‘All For Me Grog’ is another traditional song. The drunken sailor having blown his wages on drink, smokes and women, contemplates another trip to sea. What could be a sorry tale of a man on his uppers, is instead wildly optimistic and upbeat – just like most plans made in drink.

The band’s distinctly warm and naturalistic English-inflected singing contrasts with (and is complemented by) a generous range of musical influences, including folk rock and Americana. The album is brimming with humour, compassion and energy. With a fine crop of strong songs to sing along with, it’s easy to imagine this band taking a deserved place as regular festival favourites.

Su O’Brien

‘Plimsoll’ – official video: