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The Orange Circus BandThe Orange Circus Band
Album: We Make Our Smiles
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 11

The Orange Circus Band describe themselves as a raucous, footstompin' Americana/Celtic collective of family and friends with roots in the UK (Wales, Cornwall and Kent) and the States (Virginia). Certainly I can imagine the impact they'll make live, but even on CD they've a considerable presence, if not always quite the designated level of raucousness! Theirs is a fresh, bright, exciting sound, with energy and pizzazz aplenty: their music is guaranteed to set the feet tapping and the faces grinning (they make their smiles, and yours too!). They deliver original songs, often (but not exclusively) set in a kindof bluegrassy/old-timey idiom, trading licks and harmonies like nobody's business with some keen, neat but not over-polished playing. Most of the songs are credited to "Flash and the band" (Flash being Flash Hearth, lead vocalist and guitarist/harmonica player), one (the cheeky CC, My Baby) to vocalist/banjoist Jessie Moonlight, and there's a pair by Nigel Hinton towards the end of the disc.

Snakebite Street is a real blinder, with its high-octane, full-steam-ahead Chuck Berry momentum and sporting brilliant harmonica, fiddle and bass solos, while Down The River To The Sea is a kind of country-gospel singalong with a more reflective, almost sunshine-pop middle-eight. The catchy Get Me To Berlin comes across like Lou Reed singing a sea shanty; the scurrying mando-and-fiddle-flecked Bury Me At Sea could be featuring Roger McGuinn on vocal; the pensively anthemic, slightly Guthrie-esque title song, after a slightly mournful opening, is given the chance to breathe when the tempo increases and rhythms get a-stompin'. The animated Gold 'n' Rum brings back the clappy-banjo-mando hoedown vibe, and the goodtime swinging The Racetrack Song could be a McGuinness-Flint/Lindisfarne outtake, while I bet the fun stop-start progress of Saturday Song gets milked live!

I'm not sure quite how many folks are in The Orange Circus Band - the press blurb lists six: Flash, with Shep! (mandolin, banjo, box, vocals), Raven (fiddle, vocals), Jessie, Sergeant Kahn (bass) and The Rev. Zeb (electric guitar), but the photos show only five members. No matter - these guys make a great sound, full-blooded and detailed, punchy and in-yer-face. This is a seriously likeable album from a crack, enjoyably quirky band with buckets of character who sound like they really get off on what they're doing.

David Kidman