Comprising Nuneaton-raised Geordie Johnny Black and Leytonstone's fiddle-playing Emma Scarr, the duo (augmented here by Henry Senuior Jnr on pedal steel, Jerry Fellman on bass and Steve Bottcher's electric guitar) have established a solid name for themselves around East London, but they really deserve to be known on a far wider basis.
Both duetting and taking turns in the vocal spotlight, this is their third self-released album in under four years and again serve to reinforce comparisons to the pairing of MacGowan and MacColl filtered through Celtic shanty and honky tonk sensibilities. Continuing the theme of their last album, Middle Aged Love, it's stuffed with co-written songs about putting on the years and all that comes with it, the lyrics both playful and well observed.
Scarr kicks things off with the 'Prescription Junkie', an update of the Stones' 'Mother's Little Helper' before Black picks up the reins for the affection portrait of the jaunty 'My Dysfunctional Family', a musical equivalent to the Royle Family ("I know we're not perfect, but we're so full of love"). Alcohol and being attracted to unreliable men loom large, the former embodied in Scarr's banjo backed, fiddle-accompanied 'Falling Off The Wagon', where she sings about planning a night in and kicking sobriety into touch, and a sort of sequel, 'The Hangover' where he admonishes her for stewing in bed and she says that's where she's staying.
Sporting pub singalong Irish folk influences with its banjo and a leg-slapping percussion, the sprightly 'The Ballad of Eddie McLean' details falling for and being dumped by a self-serving, skirt-chasing wannabe Canning Town rock star ("though he done me wrong, at least I'm in his song"), a theme revisited on the shanty cabaret 'Wrong Kind of Men' and in the problems of the abandoned and divorced single mother in the pedal steel and harmonica coloured lament 'I've Got The Weight Of The World On My Shoulders'.
On the other hand, both sides of being commitment-phobic get paraded on the frisky old school country duet 'The Wedding Song', a playful account of neither party getting to the church on time.
But if the duet country waltzing 'I Always Knew You'd Leave Me In The End' (a perfect companion piece to the My Darling Clementine albums) offers a pessimistic view of love's inevitable collapse, the closing track, 'I've Never Seen Nothing Like You' balances things out with a swayalong ode to being mutually besotted.
Catchy, chorus friendly, easy on the ear and with lyrics that will strike a chord as well as raise a wry smile, these fairytales of East London are every bit as resonant as the one of New York.
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