BENJI KIRKPATRICK AND THE EXCESS – Gold Has Worn Away (Westpark Music LC07535)

Gold Has Worn AwayGold Has Worn Away by Benji Kirkpatrick and The Excess is a real grower of an album. Benji Kirkpatrick, Pete Flood and Pete Thomas deliver fifty-seven minutes of dynamic and rhythmic roots music which I’ve had on repeat in the car and absolutely love it.

I expect this will come as a surprise to most people, but I asked for this album to review as I wondered what Pete Thomas had been up to not having seen him since a gig with Megan Henwood in late 2018. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t come across either Benji Kirkpatrick’s or Pete Flood’s work even though they are associated with such bands as Bellowhead and Faustus. What have I missed out on?

This debut album from the trio was recorded at Henwood Studios by Pete Brown and Adventures in Audio by Matt Williams and the guest musicians are Rowan Godel and Janie Mitchell. The production is fantastic and every song crisp and fresh.

The subject matter covered is, as with many musicians these days, a comment on today’s social and political environment with a touch of personal perspective. That said the songs are in the main vibrant and upbeat and get the head nodding and fingers drumming the steering wheel.

I’m not sure who Benji would say who his influences were for this album, but as I grew up listening to mainstream rather than folk music I hear Yes, early Genesis, Robert Palmer and Joe Jackson, not many folk names in that list I know, but this is an album hard to categorise in any one genre.

The tracks I particularly enjoyed were “In Your Cave” (reminded me of ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’) and who can’t smile at a track called “Stuck In The Loop”, which is one of the three instrumentals included in this gem of thirteen track album. This is a 5* album as golden as the CD sleeve, so go and have a listen.

I think they would be a fun band to see live and I’m regretting missing out on their UK tour in the summer, especially as they’d got as close to me as Winchester. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they tour again.

Duncan Chappell

Artist’s website: https://www.benjikirkpatrick.com/

‘Fill My Heart’:

JOHN JONES – Never Stop Moving (Westpark Music 87277)

JOHN JONES Never Stop MovingThe Oysterband’s frontman has been also following a solo career since the release of Rising Road in 2009, although the band’s schedule has meant he hasn’t had chance to put together a follow-up until now. Recorded with his sometime side-band, The Reluctant Ramblers, who include guitarist Al Scott, fiddle player Tim Cotterell, bassist Lindsey Oliver and Rowan Gödel duetting and on harmony with Benji Kirkpatrick and fellow Oysterband members Alan Prosser, drummer Dil Davies and new cellist Adrian Oxaal also providing contributions, it’s a less robustly rocking affair than the past couple of band albums and more inclined to the sort of rustic acoustic folk that reflects the pastoral inspirations and Jones’ walking passion that informs many of the songs.

Which isn’t to say it lacks muscle. Featuring driving background fiddle and Scott on bouzouki, ‘The Wanderer’, which references the Uffington White Horse, is a fairly punchy number while, inspired by the story of a girl waking from a drugs coma, ‘She Wrote Her Name Today’ rides a strident drum beat and fiddle swirl that calls to mind the anthemic work of early Runrig while also suggesting folksy version of Editors.

There’s also a rousing up-tempo energy to ‘Jim Jones’, a shanty-flavoured traditional number lyrically rooted in the convict transportations to Australia and the title track itself, which, much like a shark, sings about the need to be constantly moving (a metaphor for progress, here) in order to survive, is propelled by a suitably restless rolling wheels guitar riff. By contrast, slow-tempo album opener murder ballad ‘Down By The Lake’ is a far more contemplative affair. That was apparent inspired by a local tragedy around the Welsh borders where Jones lives while the story of someone he knows who found a magpie tied up in a plastic bag grew into ‘The Black And White Bird’ wherein the bird becomes a lover’s farewell token to the girl he’s forced to leave behind. Jones’ own background informs the simple, cello-streaked acoustic ‘Ferryman’ which, summoning thoughts of vintage Ralph McTell, casts his mind back to the “diesel river” of his Meltham childhood home.

History and imagination join hands on ‘Pierrepoint’s Farewellwhere, to fiddle, cello, simple circling guitar line and Gödel’s dual vocal, he recounts the events that led Ruth Ellis to the scaffold and muses on the hangman and his wife’s feelings as the moment of execution approaches. If that offers no explicit social comment, it’s certainly to be found on ‘Ghosts Of The Village’, a bouzouki led call to arms against the way England’s country villages have become taken over by wealthy city types and their second homes, absentee residents who have led to a dismantling of traditional communities.

The two remaining numbers are both traditional songs, Gödel sharing lead vocal on the Jones and Kirkpatrick’s tribal rhythm arrangement of the seafaring ‘Banks Of Newfoundland’ and, harking back to Jones’ own rambling soul, the album comes to a gentle close with ‘Young Rambling Boys of Pleasure’, a bittersweet lovelorn hymn to the urge to rove. A hugely impressive album, then, that goes to remind that Jones both talks the talk and walks the walk. Long may his feet carry him on.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: http://jj-rr.org/

‘Down By The Lake’ live at Shrewsbury Festival 2014:

OYSTERBAND – DIAMONDS ON THE WATER (Navigator Records 087)

DiamondsOTWaterThe long awaited album from Oysterband is now here and being given rave reviews by those who hear it!  Including me!  It’s seven years since we had a new album full of new material and it is well worth the wait.  It has been #2 on the iTunes album chart already.

First time I put it on my player I was totally hooked!  A new line up was necessary with the exit of Ray ‘Chopper’ Cooper, and achieved with the addition of guitarist Al Scott (who produced and mixed the album) and vocalist Rowan Godel.  Lead singer John Jones has said that he had been nervous as to how it would be received with the changes, but he needn’t have worried.

Ranging from up-tempo Oysterband tracks as we have come to enjoy over the years and such as the fabulous opening track entitled ‘A Clown’s Heart’, ‘A River Runs’ (spine tingling lyrics where the river is human emotions and nothing to do with water…..), ‘Diamonds on The Water’ etc, and then tracks such as ‘Once I Had A Sweetheart’ and ‘Steal Away’

I could comment on them all but I think this album needs to be heard by all, as all the tracks are fabulous! Twelve glorious tracks to savour.

Other guests on the album are: Adrian Oxaal, Lindsey Oliver, Peter Davison, Eira Owen, Sarah Leeves and ex Oysterband member Lee Partis on vocals.

I have heard most of the tracks live as they are on tour at the moment, so check them out on www.oysterband.co.uk where you can seek out their gig schedule and either buy the album online or purchase as a gig, where the lads and Rowan will come out and sign it for you!

Jean Camp