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Pilgrims' WayPilgrims' Way
Album: Stand And Deliver
Label: Talking Cat
Tracks: 11

Whisper it softly, especially if you find yourself in the presence of any passing Prog Rock fan of the Seventies, the "C" word is back. Pilgrims' Way newest release is being marketed as a "concept album".

A concept which in truth is a collection of songs centred around those lovable rogues the "Highway Men." It follows a thread that is woven though diverse musical styles such as heavy rock, disco and traditional theatre to name but three laced together with impeccable folk rock. You could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a compilation of many bands such is the variety and spice on offer here. It truly stands out as unique.

Bold, brash and to hell with tradition and authority then, these are stories you will have heard before but not in this manner as Pilgrims' Way rip up the rule book and apply a new meaning to the phrase "Trad Arr".

Boosted by the addition of Jude Rees, a vocalist who brings all manner of things woodwind and "blowable" to the table, the band now lay claim to a collection of over fifty instruments.

Percussion and strings set the furious pace on the opening track "A Caveat for Cutpurses", it's a speed that the vocals without pauses keep successfully to. In admiration you wonder how. As instrument after instrument is added the Tudor feel is enhanced, a nod to the origins as being part of Ben Johnson's 1600's play "Bartholomew Fair".

"Ibson, Gibson, Johnson", sees Jon Loomes, who was the driving force behind the concept, take lead vocals with great aplomb. You will possibly be well familiar with this song, I first came to this by a version from Matthews Southern Comfort (Jinko Johnson) back in the early Seventies. A tale of a naked woman tied to the ground by her hair waiting to be rescued. It may be a traditional fantasy, here it is delivered with time honoured sexual innuendo too, but at what stage does the word "trap" not scream at you.

"Shoot Them All! (Box On Her Head)" is a testament that a resourceful young lady is not to be underestimated lest you want to be found leaking your lifeblood into the ground. As to the box, it's a Schrödinger Cat question as to what is in it I guess (just when you need an extra verse or two).

On "Cadgwith Anthem" the band deliver a traditional treatment, tight harmonies and a less is more approach to the instrumentation.

And as if that is conformist then "Saucy Bold Robber" isn't, it rocks, electric guitar to the fore. A Robber meets a Sailor. One will die.

From heavy to light the story of Robin Hood meeting the Bishop Of Hereford is given a jaunty reading with many "Derry, Derry Down's" and interchanging lyrics between English and French.

Tom Kitching takes the lead on "Gaol Song" a brilliant bleak interpretation of the treadmill song with prisoners forced into hard labour (you can set the scene with a visit to Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle Of Wight, their treadmill is now powered by donkeys in lieu of jailmates). Opening with mechanical creaking and groaning this is a masterpiece of music and even features an electronic tadpole, the Japanese Otamatone, all set to a steady walking pace.

"Turpin Hero", a vocoder, a crumhorn, funky backing, disco meets folk. Better than Jake Bugg, as good as the best of Bellowhead, need I say more.

Edwin Beasant fronts "Adieu, Adieu", a tale of repentance, a plaintive piano, orchestral feel and sadness personified. It sets the scene perfectly for "The Elms Of Tyburn", a tale of a condemned man and his trip to the gallows. Musically stripped bare, just guitar, voice and a sympathetic drone. He awaits a pardon. Will it arrive in time? Will he be saved? It's the hope that gets you in the end.

The end. But not quite. There's that title track to consider. "Stand And Deliver", it is 1981 all over again. A beautiful O.T.T. treatment complete with doo-wop harmonies it leaves you with a smile on your face.

With the release of Stand And Deliver Pilgrims' Way have produced an exceptional album that is fresh, innovative and fun.

Have a listen, catch them live, smile, frequently. You know you want to!

Ian Cripps