The Albion Band – Fighting Room review

The Albion Band; Fighting Room EPIt was a pleasure to receive a review copy of the new EP from The Albion Band last week, the pleasure coming from both the concept and the contents.

A bit like the six degrees of separation, surely most British people by now know somebody who was once in, around, or has performed with, The Albion Band. Such is the majesty of their reach, that their names are legion, for they are many.

So The Albion Band is perhaps something more of a project name rather than a specific group of people, except for one central point, Ashley Hutchings, founder of The Albion Band, and also key person in the formation of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span – for pity’s sake.

But that’s where this new incarnation is different – this is The Albion Band sans Ashley Hutchings, (except for a bit of lurking) and led instead by his son, the accomplished Blair Dunlop, on guitars and vox.

Their new release, an EP called ‘Fighting Room’ showcases Dunlop and co’s take on the Albion sound, which is a distinctly folk rock groove, reminiscent of the old days of the Albions, but also firmly up to date.

Dunlop and his cohort of Gavin Davenport, Katriona Gilmore, Tom Wright and Tim Yates deliver a energetic blast of sonic excellence with five classic slices of folk rock, led by the Thieves’ Song, penned by Davenport himself.  Beside the last song on the disc, a new rendering of Tucker Zimmerman’s Taoist Tale, the Thieves’ Song is my favourite on the release, lyrically it is a burning reminder of folk’s political inclinations, and musically would stand up well in the repertiore of any of the best folk rock acts.

The Fighting Room EP is a great start for this latest version of The Albion Band, and personally I look forward to hearing much more from them, you can buy it at The Albion Band online store, where you can also pick up some of their previous output.

It’s something of a milestone in the evolution of The Albion Band, and hopefully as a new unit we’ll be hearing much more from them over the coming months and years.

Watch out for these guys, they’ve got something.

Lady Maisery: Weave and Spin

I’ve just received a really beautiful album from a brand new folk trio Lady Maisery. It takes something quite unusual for me to feel the need to write a review as soon as I receive the CD, and this is certainly unusual; unusually good. Quite brilliant in fact.

Weave and Spin is the first album from Lady Maisery, who are Hannah James, Hazel Askew and Rowan Rheingans. It’s made up of haunting and captivating tunes, given new life by the harmonies of these three singers.

Lady Maisery are a new group, although the three members each have impeccable and international folk credentials. If I’m any judge they are likely to find themselves getting a lot of attention over the next few months – the quality of singing and musicianship really is that good.

Of particular note is the way they have recaptured the art of ‘diddling’ – singing tunes, rather than words. Its more akin to birdsong than conventional singing. It’s not something you hear these days, mainly because people don’t do it well enough to be able to get away with it, Lady Maisery however,  have really mastered the art.

Actually this is a peculiarly rich album, full of unexpected sounds and with suprising elements of wry humour. Really I suppose this represents what English folk music does best, and that does involve nicking things from other places, so expect some european tunes, and even a Sitar type instrument along with the more traditional English sounds.

My favourites from this outstanding album , besides the diddling – I loved the anti-war ‘Portland town’, and was enthralled by The Changelings’ Lullaby and The Capable Wife, but my favourite of them all was the final track ‘Sleep On Beloved’ which I found myself listening to over and over again – astoundingly beautiful.

Lady Maisery should, if there is any musical justice, have a great year ahead of them.  Weave and Spin is available now.