Greenman Rising is a six-piece folk band based in the Midlands. I first came across them when I heard a track (Lowlands Of Holland) on the R2/Rock'n'Reel Un-Herd cover CD back in the summer of last year, which was listed as being from the band's debut CD. Subsequent enquiry revealed this release was still forthcoming, and it finally appeared one year later, in July of this year. And it was definitely worth the wait too!
The Greenman Rising band name is almost identical to that of the successful Green Man Rising festival, and its members are veterans of many a festival in their own right including FabFest and Bearded Theory. The band comprises Steve Bentley (vocals, bodhrán), Andrew Wigglesworth (melodeons, whistle), Eddie Bentley (bass, baritone guitar, guitar), Rebecca Park (fiddle, bassoon, recorder), Jen Waghorn (vocals, fiddle, mandolin) and Richard Sullivan (guitar, mandolin, mandola). This healthily diverse lineup takes care of all the potential folk-rock accoutrements… that is, excepting a drumkit - but the band sound's heavy enough without it, for Steve's spirited bodhrán does sturdy duty providing the driving rhythmic backdrop (and proves .
Admirably, the music of Greenman Rising doesn't stand on ceremony or provide trendy or radical arrangements. It's described as the hardcore tradition for modern audiences, and this is borne out by the mix of material, which in terms of bread-and-butter folk-rockery takes in not only the aforementioned Lowlands Of Holland but also Bonny Ship The Diamond and Ratcliffe Highway. Best of all four trad-arrs, though, is the disc's opener, Bedlam Boys, which is taken at an energetic, pounding gallop, with cheeky Mad-Maudlin lead vocal by Jen (well, in the end it's just a bit of fun!) and an equally cheeky mid-song interpolation of the morris tune Old Tom Of Oxford. But Lowlands Of Holland, which had caught my attention amidst the other goodies on that R2 CD, is no slouch either, and has a comparable sense of driven momentum. Interestingly, though, this is a more contemplative version than the standard more narrative-heavy one, and this suits Jen's vocal approach; the fiddle-mando-melodeon backing is just detailed enough to be interesting but not divert attention from the text. The album contains three instrumental sets, which are intelligently arranged and fierily dispatched (you can tell that Greenman Rising also works as a dance band). There's a sound sense of balance and proportion, and the tunes fit well together, especially (I thought) the rollicking combination of The Seven Stars with the Scattery Island slide. The Babes In The Wood set combines a pair of Kerry polkas with a Quebecois tune, while the Three Around Three set livens up in its second half with a funky, gritty Rochdale Coconut Dance that brings in a solo electric guitar. The remaining two vocal numbers are a thoughtfully baroque-folk mando-centric cover of Sandy Denny's Fotheringay classic Winter Winds with an appealing bassoon obbligato, and Robb Johnson's tribute to British soldier Vic Williams (neatly conjoined with Morrison's Jig), on which Steve takes lead vocal.
What I especially like about this CD - and Greenman Rising - is the unpretentiousness of the music-making, a feeling of unashamed good-time that still doesn't get in the way of having something to say. These qualities and aims are well captured by producer Mark Lee at Banbury's Blue Moon Studios, who clearly has an accurate grasp of the musicians' capabilities, their instrumental possibilities and combinations. The economic digipack does the biz, and if you want the detailed sleeve notes they're on the band's website.
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