Strawbs – new studio album: first for eight years.

Strawbs

The Ferryman’s Curse is the first Strawbs album of new material in eight long years. It is produced by the legendary Chris Tsangarides, whose studio is littered with diamond, platinum, and gold discs by the likes of Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, and guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen.

In celebration of the release, Strawbs set out on UK tour dates (see below), including the album’s official launch date at London’s Under The Bridge on 29th October – and will include some very Special Guests!

Their album, Hero & Heroine, has been listed by Rolling Stone magazine as “one of the 50 greatest prog rock albums of all time”. It is the band’s biggest seller worldwide and was certified gold in North America. In the USA Strawbs had seven consecutive albums in the Billboard Top 200.

Dave Cousins, founder member, has been described by All Music Guide as: “the most talented Dylan influenced songwriter to come out of England”.  He recently released his long awaited, and critically acclaimed, autobiography Exorcising Ghosts: Strawbs and Other Lives. It was listed by influential critic Richie Unterberger in his “Top 10 of 2014 rock books”.

Strawbs are often mentioned in the same breath as progressive rock bands like Yes, King Crimson, and The Moody Blues.  It is well documented that Rick Wakeman left Strawbs for Yes.  Rick was followed by Blue Weaver – who left Strawbs to join the Bee Gees, John Hawken – from the original Renaissance, Don Airey – now with Deep Purple, Adam Wakeman, and Oliver Wakeman, who, like his father, left Strawbs to join Yes!.

Strawbs emerged out of the British Folk Movement of the mid-1960s, starting life as the Strawberry Hill Boys playing bluegrass. They moved into the mainstream in 1967 by making the first Strawbs album, All Our Own Work, with Sandy Denny, a full year before she recorded her first album with Fairport Convention. The album attracted the attention of A&M Records in Hollywood who signed Strawbs as the first British band on the label.

Strawbs albums Hero & Heroine, Bursting At The Seams, Ghosts, and Grave New World define the music. The current Strawbs line-up comprises Dave Cousins, lead guitarist Dave Lambert, bass player Chas Cronk, and drummer Tony Fernandez, who recorded and toured together in the 1970s.  They are joined by keyboard virtuoso Dave Bainbridge of Iona, a band whose mystical blend of rock, folk, Celtic and ambient music has endeared them to audiences across Europe and North America for the last 25 years.

Spellbinding guitar interplay, with countless alternative tunings to create the drone effect so evident in The Strawbs’ music, was the hallmark of an evening which provided far more than a dose of nostalgia. Whether you lean towards the folk or the prog it matters little . . . plugged in or not, the Strawbs are the juiciest, tastiest fruit you’re ever likely to hear.” (Swndon Echo – October 2014)

Artists’ website:  http://www.strawbsweb.co.uk/

‘Out In The Cold/Round And Round’ – live:

I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn – the acoustic Sandy Denny

I've Always Kept A Unicorn

I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn is the best album that the late Sandy Denny never made. This 40-track/2CD set, comprised of demos, live, radio and TV recordings, captures the sublimely gifted British singer-songwriter at her most intimate as she runs through stripped down arrangements of songs she performed with the Strawbs, Fairport Convention, Fotheringay and The Bunch, along with material from her four solo albums.

Exclusive to this masterful set are three demos recorded at Richard Branson’s Manor Studios in December 1971 for the 1972 rock and roll covers album, The Bunch Rock On; alongside ‘Love Made A Fool Of You’ and ‘Learning The Game’ by one of her teenage heroes, Buddy Holly, she sings a charming duet with Linda Thompson on Phil Everly’s ‘When Will I Be Loved’.

The set comes complete with sleeve notes by Mick Houghton, the author of the critically lauded 2015 Sandy Denny biography, I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn.

All those who knew Sandy Denny well, and who worked closely with her, recall how brilliant she was as a solo acoustic performer and many welcome this compilation as fitting homage to her unique and true talent.

“Sandy was, as are our most brilliant performers, much better solo; I so wish she had recorded a solo album, and told her so.”  (Linda Thompson)

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STRAWBS – Prognostic (Witchwood WMCD 2056)

PrognosticWelcome to the Strawbs with attitude! This is not the stripped down acoustic folk that some may be familiar with. This is a powerhouse of progressive rock. The album consists of a re-release of five tracks from the albums Heartbreak Hill and The Broken Hearted Bride; lovingly remounted and remixed. In addition are four tracks previously unreleased.

The album opens with the back-catalogue tracks, starting with ‘Heartbreak Hill’. Hints of early Genesis and Yes throughout, but with the distinctive Strawbs’ stamp. David Cousin’s unique vocals weave intricate stories through the multi layered music. Each song is a mini epic; the only track under six minutes is ‘Tomorrow’, coming in at 4.29. The various sections through each song are carefully structured to provide a rich tapestry of sounds.

The musicianship is of the highest quality, which is only to be expected. There are even guest appearances by Conny Conrad and the legendary Rick Wakeman. Each song rivets your attention and leaves you in eager anticipation of the next track and the newer tracks are written and performed in exactly the same style as the older songs, so that the change from old to new is seamless

This album is a marvelous example of the Strawbs as a real prog rock force. Turn the volume up to 11, sit back, and immerse yourself in this glorious album.

Ron D Bowes

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Artists’ website: http://www.strawbsweb.co.uk/

‘The River/Down By The Sea’ live in 2013. Different line-up but close:

And the original version of ‘Heartbreak Hill’:

DAVE COUSINS – Exorcising Ghosts

Exorcising Ghosts Front cover Hi-res (1)EXORCISING GHOSTS, THE EXPLOSIVE AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY THE STRAWBS FRONTMAN, DAVE COUSINS TO BE RELEASED THIS SEPTEMBER

Exorcising Ghosts — the long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated autobiography by Dave Cousins, the enigmatic frontman and founder of British folk-rock band, The Strawbs — is to be published this September, distributed by Music Sales, the parent company of Omnibus Press, the world’s leading publisher of music-related books.

This explosive book promises to lift the lid on the highs and lows of Cousins’ celebrated 50-year music career. It charts how a working-class boy from West London came to sell out stadiums, discover Sandy Denny and Rick Wakeman; mix with iconic figures such as David Bowie, Richard Attenborough, and Dame Vera Lynn; meet royalty and gain the Pope’s blessings, and change the face of commercial radio in the UK.

Cousins details The Strawbs’ extraordinary rise from its beginnings in the revivalist folk scene of the 1960s to chart-topping success in the ‘70s after they became the first British band signed to A&M Records in Hollywood. And it reveals his struggles with music management and the impact of commercialism on his music.

For the first time, it also documents Cousins’ remarkable and little-known “parallel” career in radio and provides an insight into “machinations” that he believes destroyed community-based UK stations.

An essential read for Strawbs fans and music aficionados alike, Exorcising Ghosts explores the diverse personalities and relationships which have influenced Cousin’s songwriting, and contains a wealth of untold, ‘warts and all’ stories about his friends and collaborators, including:

  • Rick Wakeman (Strawbs, Yes)
  • Led Zeppelin
  • David Bowie
  • Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention)
  • Blue Weaver (Bee Gees)
  • Andy Richards (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)

Exorcising Ghosts follows the success of Secrets, Stories & Songs, an anthology of lyrics released by Cousins in 2010. It is, Cousins explains, a “document of its time, from post-war austerity to the present day”.

Cousins, who recently sailed on back-to-back rock cruises in April with the Moody Blues and with Yes, said: “I have found the experience unsettling and emotional, but cathartic at the same time. It has saved me a fortune in psychiatrists’ fees.

“I have discovered that there have been an equal number of peaks and troughs in my career. It’s been a rollercoaster ride!”

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‘Hangman And The Papist’ a classic Strawbs song featuring Rick Wakeman

Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby release Real World

Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby Real WorldIt’s interesting how all of us keep people in certain slots, no matter how we deny it.

Consider Brian Willoughby, best known for his work with the legendary folk-rock band the Strawbs. Sure, he’s a guitar master who is much in demand as evidenced by his work with Nanci Griffith, Mary Hopkin and many others, obviously including the Strawbs. Still, thinking of him always conjures up Strawbs’ melodies.

What a delight it is to remind ourselves of his fluid versatility. Perhaps nowhere is that clearer than on his just-released album Real World with Cathryn Craig. For those that don’t know, the U.S.-based Craig makes her home in Virginia, not far from Nashville where she used worked with such legendary artists as Chet Atkins and the Righteous Brothers.

Combining Willoughby’s lush, acoustic guitar work with Craig’s emotive vocals truly brings out the best in both artists’ offerings. Think of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell but replace the honky tonk vibe and cowboy with a folk sensibility in the most elegant sense and you have a feeling of what Real World offers.

Consider the opening track of the album “Eastview Lane,” that finds Craig’s vocals — that put one in mind of Griffith herself perhaps mixed with a twang less Emmylou Harris — ruminating about sweet times with dolls, bikes and granddaddy’s old place when as children we “used to be so happy, we really had it all.”

Perhaps the look at life through a panoramic camera sweeping from sweet childhood memories to adults sorrows — such as those told on “Alice’s Song” about a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome and “Cumberland” about the devastating 2010 floods in Nashville — and you have a soundscape that could play behind most of our lives.

Combining Willoughby’s spiritual guitar work and Craig’s poignant vocals reminds all of us that life, for all its dips and curves, truly is as rich as we make it.

By Nancy Dunham

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Artist Web link: http://www.craigandwilloughby.com

ACOUSTIC STRAWBS – Rock Plaza, Sevenoaks 04.02.12

Our friends’ at Brandywine Music are putting on some tremendous acts at venues across Kent and Sussex and tonight was no exception. OK, so it might not perhaps have been the full punnet of Strawbs but it proved more than enough for the attendant audience on what turned out to be an extremely bitter February night. Without a word of pomp or ceremony the intrepid trio of Dave Cousins (guitar, banjo, dulcimer and lead vocals), Dave Lambert (guitar and vocals) and Chas Cronk (bass, bass pedals, 12-string guitar and vocals) took to the stage for some enjoyable reminiscing spanning the band’s forty years together. Chronologically speaking, Cousins related the Strawbs history from their humble beginnings at The White Bear pub in Hounslow starting with “The Man Who Called Himself Jesus” via a ‘first track’ (with notable exceptions) album trawl including “The Weary Song”, to the (more or less) present day with “Cold Steel” all of which came and went faster than a snow blizzard. Smiles of recognition for each song, perhaps showing the tell-tale age of a majority of the audience were treated to “Josephine, For Better Or For Worse”, “The Hangman And The Papist” and the truly classic hit single “Lay Down”, each greeted with enthusiastic rounds of applause and finishing with the encore “Shine On Silver Sun”. Before we knew it, it was time to brave the winter elements but each going away with a sense of feeling that perhaps we’d all had a Glimpse Of Heaven (an unashamed nodding wink to those in the know).

PETE FYFE

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Artist Web Link www.strawbsweb.co.uk