I have to confess that prior to receiving copy of this, their fourth album, despite them being BBC Young Folk Award finalists in 2008, I'd never come across the Cheshire-based bluegrassy trio of lead singer Jay Bradberry (fiddle/guitar), Mike Giverin (guitar/mandolin) and Lucille Williams (double bass), aka Jaywalkers.
As such, I'm in no position to compare this with previous work, but the accompanying blurb says that time round the songs predominantly draw on personal experiences and perspectives rather than stories from Giverin's home county of Lancashire.
As such, one has to assume that, given she wrote it, the opening fiddle and mandolin driven 'Homage to the Fromage' marks Bradberry down as savouring a good Brie or Camembert. It's one of two instrumentals, the other, keeping a food theme going and with the same instrumental pairing, being Giverin's mountain music workout, 'Burnt Chilli Creek'.
Turning to the songs, featuring Stu Williams on banjo and a sprightly fiddle solo, the lively breakdown '(Won't You Please) Rescue Me' stems from Giverin almost getting stuck up a mountain in Colorado while both the Glen Campbell-ish 'Life I Chose' and, Scott Poley on pedal steel, the waltzing honky tonker 'How Many Whiskeys?' both deal with the loneliness of a musician's life on the road. On a similar note, another waltztime number, Giverin on mandolin, 'This Is The One' concerns the songwriter's highs of creativity and the lows of despair.
The personal's complemented with the political, the album bringing an environmental note (with a ring of hope) to 'This Time/End of the World Waltz', the jaunty mandolin-based first half shifting to the slower fiddle instrumental play out. Looking at things from the other side, the jazzier swing of 'Set Me Free' with its mandolin solo sounds a cautionary note about the downside of being eco-warriors when over-ardent activism can lead to you getting locked up as others fiddle while the world burns.
The last of the original material is also the only track to feature percussion (handclaps by the sound of it), courtesy of producer Josh Clark, 'Too Close To Comfort' being a soulful, almost gospel-tinged, fear of commitment number. It ends with a single microphone live recording stomp through Johnny Cash's 'Big River' with Giverin providing the funky, choppy mandolin riff backbone, Williams the solid rhythm and Bradberry the fiddle solo.
Jaywalking is, of course, an American expression that refers to crossing the street when there's traffic. This is an album you should not swerve to avoid.
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