Thursday, 23 February 2017

"Big Machine" by Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band


It begins with a distinctly electronic buzz sound followed shortly after by an accordion. Well, this is folk music, isn't it? Then the brass picks around the end of the first chorus and you then know,  especially when the background singers pipe up that this is not your run-of-the-mill folk at all. If anything, when labels are applied this is prog-folk. I don't like that term, though. Doesn't seem right. That by the way, was song one on the album, "Fade and Fall (Love Not), a powerful song that speaks for women everywhere. No brushing off issues under the carpet here. 

Song two also has an electronic fade-in-out of a buzz before a very sounding Rock guitar swaggers in followed by a chorus of female voices. The fiddle (mustn't call it a violin - it's folk init?). "Devil In The Woman." Robust, lively, a jig played out as if a slap around the face will shortly follow.

"The Fitter's Song" decides itself as it staggers out of the bierkeller slapping its thighs filled with Kurt Weil music then that brass again, a guitar solo that stings like a flotilla of bees before a trumpet solo, all too brief, adds a curious mix to the melody; a melody sung by the mistress of this hefty ensemble with her lusty voice that boasts such a range. Fades out and into...

Fourth song up and I am wondering whatever next? "Jack Warrell's Hornpipe (excerpt) Love Lane. Now that reads like a proper folk toon.  Well, that gaggle of female voices accompanied by a violin might be folk, sort of, but the pace is all wrong and besides it's over as soon as it begins as it mutates into what is very much a hornpipe. Yes, neat. Oh hell, the drum banging away introducing that guitar again, almost Hank Marvinesque, then what sounds like a string section as it settles (?) back into a wild and woolly reel. Blimey. Don't stand still long do these Wayward Band people.

Track five, "Hug You Like A Mountain," begins with Eliza Carthy singing unaccompanied. That is a delight in itself, what follows takes delight beyond delightful as teddy Thompson (son of Richard) joins in. Their duet is staggering on its own but the music that lays the platform from which they sing over has all the drama and potency of any and all great ballads which it probably isn't but who cares. Brilliant song. Should be a single. Don't think Simon Cowell would agree.

"You Know Me" yet again starts with the deceit of having an electro introduction before accordion and a snappy, smart smack of a drum rides the song along inviting those wonderful girl singers to rise in support of the song and then MC Dizraeli does his rap but not one of those fuzzy fictional raps that pop stars often think they need to show how current they are, the real deal. Excellent.

But enough. No one wants to read an appreciation listing song-by-song, track-by-track. Do they? Well, they aren't gonna get one.

So many good songs. Such a good album with sinuous thread linking each track. Not a concept album as such, no, nothing like that, but connected somehow. Probably my favourite song/track is "I Wish That The Wars Were All Over." Such great, great singing by Eliza Carthy and Damien Dempsey. Simply beautiful.

This is not just a thoroughly entertaining album riddle with some amazing songs.Nor is it what many might expect, a folk album stiffly adhering to the traditions of that genre. This is an album that dares. It dares big. It goes places few folk bands go and, if you are willing, it'll take you there too.








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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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