I think this is very good. Thursday’s Band released Chittagong Tattoo, their second full album, in November. Sometimes, you go to watch a live band and get the sense, “Ooh, they’ve got something.” I’ve not seen Thursday’s Band play live, but I’d rather like to. Chittagong Tattoo seems ‘to have something’.
There’s no official video, but there’s a couple of tracks from the new album on YouTube: ‘Granny Mean’, a rehearsal video (and more of which later) and ‘Les Cigales d’Avignon’, which I’ve linked to because it captures the band playing live. It seems to have been recorded in a café/pub, on one of those cramped stages (well, space at the end of the room) that you get – and I think it captures the feel the CD gives of a band playing folk music that is a little different, good, interacts well with the audience and, just generally, ‘has got something’.
So why? There’s something at the heart of folk music that: means you feel close to it i.e. you could imagine yourself in that room, on that ‘stage’ even, joining in; has tunes that you can sing along with, maybe even feel you’ve known the music all your life even when the songs are brand new; has lyrics that are a tad more sophisticated than ‘bop-shoo-whoo-wop’ or ‘moon/June; and just generally puts you close to the players – physically they’re not on a distant stage, in skill and equipment they’re better than you but recognisably similar, the stories capture a part of your life or the edges of your thinking. Chittagong Tattoo has most of this and the video of ‘Les Cigales d’Avignon’ suggests the rest is there in live performance.
There are nine songs on the album and the band have written all of them, essentially modern folk music but with additional influences from country, Cajun and a flicker of rock. ‘Granny Mean’ is stunning. It’s quietly finger-picked, violin in the background, a rising chorus, and lyrics which capture the many emotions of someone with dementia. It is told in the first person, capturing both the fog of the mind and the clarity to know what is happening. It works. It shouldn’t but it really does.
The band describe ‘Let The Fire Die Back’ as “a narrative hinted at”. There are only ten lines, five of them are the refrain “She’s not coming home” and the other five are images of aloneness. The song is driven by violin and the interplay between male and female vocal. You pick up the story in the gaps between the images – and you want to join in that refrain.
‘Leavings’ opens the album. It has a ‘joining-in chorus’, lovely interplay between the instruments as they hand the lead briefly from one to the other and a final verse that that brings light to darkness. ‘Difficult Man’ is a delightfully human song about the songwriter’s father, growing up in Cape Town and understanding the influences that, clearly, made him a difficult man.
There’s also a much wider internationalism to this album. ‘In The City’, sung mostly in French, is described as “a Suffolk Cajun song”; ‘Ravensbruck’ is a song about the women in Ravensbruck labour camp. ‘Les Cigales d’Avignon’ captures a trip to France in search of ancestors. The album ends with ‘The Chittagong Tattoo’, a powerful title track, flowing guitar picking which drives a song about the dismantling of large ships in Chittagong. The consequent deaths and injuries are personalised. The title is the name for welding burns that the workers get.
From what I can gather Thursday’s Band are mostly playing in the Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, East Anglia region. Feels like you might want to see if you can get them to your folk club.
‘Les Cigales d’Avignon’ – live:
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