THE SALTS – Live In London Town (own label)

Live In London TownThe Salts are one of my few local(ish) bands, one that is rising in stature and popularity by the day. Brian Doran leads the band and plays flute among other instruments which is unusual for a shanty crew but he actually restricts himself to the more traditional whistle. Lee Collinson plays guitar and banjo, which is a key part of the band’s sound sometimes imparting a country feel to the music. Jeremy Hart plays guitar, Richard Nash drums and Tim Cantrell plays double bass and all five sing which gives them variety on lead vocals and scope for big choruses. Live In London Town was recorded last spring at Wilton’s Music Hall.

They kick off the set with ‘Johnny Come Down To Hilo’ – the bowdlerised modern version, of course, but anything else would get them run out of town. Up next is ‘Hanging Johnny’ and so they have started off with two tracks which invite their audience to dance, sing or do whatever they fancy. Next is ‘Good Ship Bess’ the first of Jeremy’s compositions – a really powerful song.

It’s back to the tradition with ‘Alabama John Cherokee’ and ‘Fifteen Men’. It’s worth observing that The Salts successfully combine abundant energy with control, clever arrangements and tight playing. Given the nature of their source material, this a remarkable achievement, As if to prove the point they take their foot of the gas just a little for another of Jeremy’s songs, ‘Silver And Shame’, about smuggling.

‘Dead Horse’, which I learned as ‘Poor Old Man’, ‘Nelson’s Blood’ (with a bit of a Caribbean feel), ‘Fire Marengo’ and ‘London Town’ follow, all demonstrating the band’s arranging and rhythmic skills and their willingness to do something different with familiar material. ‘A Shadow Falls’ is the third of Jeremy’s songs and now we’re in the home straight with ‘The Bulgine Run’, featuring Tim Cantrell’s double-bass, and ‘Hieland Laddie’ before Jeremy and Lee’s closer, ‘Hold The Line’, appears as an encore. The Salts send a crowd that they’ve just wound up on their way home quietly and thoughtfully.

Live In London Town is impressive both from a musical and technical point of view and is bloody good listening to boot.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Johnny Come Down To Hilo’ – live and acoustic:

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