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Stick In The Wheel Stick In The Wheel
Album: Follow Them True
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 13

One of the bands to have sprung of London in recent times, Stick in the Wheel have returned with their highly anticipated album Follow Them True. The East London quintet made a bit of mark for themselves a couple of years ago with their in-your-face London accented vocal delivery and Punk spirited takes on traditional numbers. This earned them numerous awards as well as the Fatea Magazine Debut Album Of The Year.

If there was a suspicion that Stick in the Wheel would be a one trick pony, they've laid those fears aside for listeners. Opener 'Over Again' leads us into familiar territory with the band's trademark 'handclaps' with Nicola Kearey's brash and unapologetic vocals with delicate harmonies backing the lead. Keeping us on familiar territory are 'Weaving Song'. 'Witch Bottle' and 'White Copper Alley', a traditional London song also known as 'Lass of London City' which many might know Nic Jones' version, here we have a version which is delivered with far more vigour and ferocity.

Title track 'Follow Them True' will certainly turn a few heads. Here the band explore more of their electronic side which on their previous album they only dipped their toes into. Guitarist Ian Carter, whose experience in the underground electronic scene comes to the fore as autotune is used as an instrument on this rather haunting ballad. '100,000 Years' follows suit with heavy reverb on the violin with thin autotuned vocals. These tracks sound primitive, ethereal with chant-like droning dirges that also sound modern, using numerous electronic techniques but also have a foot firmly placed in something from a different era.

'Abbots Bromley Horn Dance' is one of the oldest surviving English dance tunes and neatly breaks up the album in the middle.

The next half of the album continues with originals and traditionals 'Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green', 'Roving Blade', 'Poor Old Horse' but Stick in the Wheel continue to surprise with their originals as Kearey's bare unapologetic vocals lead a solo in 'Unquiet Grave' and the closer 'As I Roved Out' leads us on an another ambient electronic journey. This haunting closer ends the album perfectly and tantalises us for their next endeavour.

Stick in the Wheel have managed once again to stick fiercely to tradition with working class subversive folk song whilst having their hand in another direction but seamlessly managing to bring it together as a cohesive album. There is a quiet ambition in this album and after a few listens, this album grows on you more and more and could well be one of the albums of 2018. Catch them on their tour from February onward where I suspect they will be at their finest.

Johnny Campbell