A couple of close encounters with the vibrant and vigorous live incarnation of The Eskies over the Summer at Cambridge Folk Festival and at the Head For The Hills Festival was enough to see their name heading towards to top of the 'to do' list. On the other hand would 'And Don't Spare The Horses' prove to be one of those albums that having seen the gig and revved up for some shenanigans, you get home and find a set of songs that have been through the studio filter that strips them of their energy?
Fingers crossed, we're greeted by what seems an apt title for this, their second album. At H4TH, there was no sense of restraint (in a good way) and the guys were going to make the most of their forty minutes and pack as much as they could into the space. A similar philosophy to an album that's similarly saturated with genres as varied as folk, klezmar, Yiddish, swing, rock and blues. Eclectic goes part way to describing not only the musical content but also lyrically as the boys swing wildly from melancholic themes of woe, loss, fear and regret to tongue in cheek irreverence and maybe if you dig deep enough, some hint of introspection.
"I've seen this kind of things before, I know exactly how it ends" goes 'Building Up Walls' whose quivering, half manic, half spoken words build to one of those anthemic refrains. Typical of the pulsing vein of high drama and flamboyance that runs through the record. Talk of 'you're never more than 6 feet from a rat', in Eskies terms of course, you're never more than a few moments from an encounter with another boundary nudging moment. Swing round the corner, you walk straight into the mardi gras feel of 'Shame' or the breakneck speed thrash of 'Napoleon' as 'I'm Not Sorry' induces one of those festival fist pumping chorus that would/should have stadiums rocking. Add to that plenty of evocative Morricone themed trumpeting and spaghetti western-isms in abundance and the mix is mesmeric.
Everything is kick started by the big band swing of 'All Good Men', lead single and tone setting album opener. It's party time central and while the course of the album might see The Eskies on a rousing, deeply dippy agenda, they go deeply folky on 'Death To The Sentry', the horrors of war coming over in a modern day Sassoon / Owen war poem set to music. A rare moment of reflection and pause for thought before the realisation that life is too short.
Ultimately a huge confirmation, hopes matched and any doubts dismissed and hopefully no horses harmed in the making of this music.
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