British but based in Germany, the Black Country's Mark Bloomer (formerly drummer with 90s one hit wonders Babylon Zoo) and Northumberland-born Andrew Cadie have made quite an impression on the country's folk circuit, the album already having won the German Record Critics' Award in the Singer-Songwriter/Folk category.
Their fifth album, featuring nine original songs, five traditional songs or tunes and three covers, it's an impressive collection that features no less than 11 different instruments, Bloomer on kit with string and brass arrangements by Cadie and long-time collaborator Katie Doherty on vocals alongside a clutch of studio musicians providing dobro, double bass, accordion (courtesy of Cara's Gudrun Walther), bodhran and harmonium.
It kicks off in strong from with Bloomer's moody, fiddle-led 'Cold Wind Blow', a song about religion keeping you captive and ignorant, followed by Cadie's 'Keep Hauling', a shanty that should be familiar from the Show of Hands cover on their current album, although this, which features Jules Cadie and Holly and Elia Smith on backing vocals, is a sparser, more percussive arrangement.
Incorporating a jig and featuring bodhran and accordion, 'Here We Go Again' is a politically-themed track by Bloomer, followed by 'Ashgill Force Rant', a three part fiddle-led instrumental from Cadie inspired by the Cumbrian waterfall and featuring double bass, accordion and hand percussion, while Doherty wrote and also takes lead on the pulsing 'Passing Through' that features Cadie on Northumbrian pipes.
The tempo slows for Cardie's sparse and brooding migrant-themed 'Fishing In Troubled Waters', before Bloomer's military beat drum figure introduces the first of the traditional numbers, the much mined 'High Germany', incorporating a reel by Cardie. 'Bonny At Morn' is another traditional number, from Northumbria, arranged for just Cardie's vocal and mournful fiddle, in turn giving way to 'Katie & Stephen of Nooktom Farm', a three-part tempo-shifting fiddle instrumental that's part Cardie/part trad.
Bloomer returns to the writing fray with the piano-accompanied 'Down By The River', a soaringly anthemic song in celebration of two inspirational friends, which, with a fiddle scraping intro, is followed by the first cover, Jez Lowe's defiant working man's anthem 'Bare Knuckle' featuring two part harmony on the chorus. Another trad/Cardie instrumental, 'Hen In The Pen', again featuring pipes, is followed by 'The Drawbridge,' another second crisis number, its content and loping reggae rhythm calling to mind UB40. The last of the original material comes with Bloomer's pulsing bass, slow march 'Who Stole My Love?', its strong traditional folk flavours even featuring a "Doo Rum a Doo Dum Day" refrain.
Finally, it's over to Woody Guthrie to close proceedings with 'Way Down Yonder In A Minor Key', one of the lost songs set to music by Billy Bragg, that has Andy May on piano and guest harmonies from Tim Gray, Iain Goodwin and Holly and Ellie Smith, the number swelling to a climax and dying fiddle and guitar resolve.
As I say, they're already a major name in Germany, it's about time they found the same success here.
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