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The Stompies The Stompies
Album: No Stompy On Sunshine
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 11

Gathered from various parts of the country, but based in rural Alvechurch, where they run the Alvechurch Acoustic Roots folk club, formed in 2010 the current eight-piece line up comprises founder members guitarist and ukulele player Paul Chamberlain, Sue Resuggan and flautist Fi Holmes alongside relatively more recent recruits Martin Salter on acoustic bass, drummer Freddie Gee, guitarist Dave Howard and father and daughter melodeon and fiddle team Keith and Leah Yendell.

The title of the album, their original name, apparently stems from their use of a stomp box on a version of Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine'. That doesn't feature here, all the material, save for a lively near six-minute rendition of the Scottish traditional 'Mary Mac' interwoven with the Gaelic mouth music number 'Fureem Be Ma Heen', being band originals, mostly penned by a clearly very literate Chamberlain.

The first up is the lovely flute-coloured 'Find Love', a chorus-friendly song that conjures thoughts of the 60s pastoral folk pop made by the likes of Fairfield Parlour, Jacky and The Seekers. Named after and inspired by the novel by Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk, the jaunty 'Museum of Innocence' brings more of a jazzy, vaudeville air, although the lyrics, which involve a reference to green tea and love on the rocks, have a bittersweet end of relationship tang that echoes the book's story about Kemal and F├╝sun's ill-fated love affair with culminates in the creation of a museum, filled with objects that serve as reminder of their doomed relationship.

Next up is the other track to push past the five-minute mark, 'Great White Whale', fingerpicked acoustic initially backdropping a lyric that revisits Herman Melville's existential classic of obsession Moby Dick, sung in the voice of the book's narrator Ishmael, the only survivor of the Pequod, fiddle and drums adding extra muscle as the song gathers to its dramatic peak. Climaxing in a rousing unaccompanied rendition of the chorus before returning to the opening scene setting lines, it underscores their strength as storytellers.

This is amply reinforced in the melodically tumbling album standout 'The Lonesome Heart of Mabel Stark' which, with Resuggan singing lead backed by a simple strings, guitar and keys arrangement, briefly shifting to a martial beat, details the story of Kentucky-born Mary Haynie, who, in the 1920s, joined a Californian circus and became one of the first woman tiger trainers, going on to find fame with Barnum & Bailey before ending her career in the animal theme park Jungleland in Thousand Oaks before committing suicide in 1968.

Showbusiness also provides the setting for the carousel waltzing 'Marcus', inspired by the story of a Polish immigrant striptease performer who didn't quite strike the chord with the British public he'd hoped as "He goes and just lays in the snow/His last show in the snow."

A percussion and drum-led romp, sung by the two women, Dave Howard's 'Sail On Father' has a touch of the shanties about it, while, again featuring Resuggan and Holmes's harmonies, the catchy 'Searching For The Headlight' offers a slight melodic return to the opening number, albeit here with a spotlight on melodeon, with another of their toe tapping choruses.

'Emotional Life' takes the mood and pace down slightly for a swell and surge piano led ballad about loneliness and a bruised heart, Yendell's fiddle adding its melancholic notes, the thematic tide flowing over into 'Valentine's Day', a song about moving on ("your lover doesn't love you anymore") with its gently tumbling melody line, melodeon, dappled percussion and references to 'Heartbreak Hotel' and 'Blue Suede Shoes'.

Given a clumping morris-like rhythm, it ends with another powerful story song, 'The Killing'. The title referring to the Danish procedural thriller and the character of Sarah Lund, the narrative parallels her determination with that of Cait Reilley, a 24-year-old geology graduate who, in 2013, faced with either working in a unpaid shelf stacking job she hated or losing her benefits, took on the UK Government and her local job centre and won her case in what was essentially a blow against modern slavery.

With an age range of 30 years between their youngest and oldest members, they're probably not going to be taken up by the next big thing brigade, but if this gets the exposure it deserves then they might find the need to invest in a suitably large vehicle to meet booking requests from the folk circuit beyond their Bromsgrove patch.

Mike Davies