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WolfNote WolfNote
Album: Herding Cats
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12

Hailing from Berkshire, Wolfnote are an acoustic folk quintet lining up as Bex Rennie on cello and recorder, Mike Tuffery on bass and guitar, violinist Ceri Rushent, guitarist and dulcimer player Gillian McCoy and Ann-Mari Thomas on bass and percussion, with all bar Rushent contributing lead vocals and everybody pitching with the writing. The title a reference to the difficulty of getting them in the same place at the same time, their debut album is an impressively confident affair even if the subject matter tends to lean towards the darker side of life. That said, while the opener, 'Stand By For Take Off', written and sung by McCoy, deals with her PTSD, it's about coming out the other side rather than being consumed by the illness, a light rolling rhythm folk pop number that, featuring recorder, uses the image of a plane taking off as a metaphor for recovery.

Rennie takes over vocal duties for her self-penned 'In The Balance', throbbing bass from Thomas underpinning a number which, at times evoking Pentangle, concerns the two two equinoxes, the tipping points between the seasons and, as such, about taking stock of what has gone and what lies ahead, the melody and the interweaving backing vocals capturing the circular nature and featuring some heady violin from Rushent.

Ceding the bass to Tuffery, Thomas steps up to sing her relationships-themed 'Let It Go' with its bluesy folk groove and clicking percussion before, accompanied by dulcimer and cello, a male vocal finally puts in an appearance with the deep, smoky voiced Tuffery's 'Westward Winds',a shanty styled number about a sailor finally quitting the sea to be with his other half, quite likely related to his own retirement from the Ambulance service.

Written by Rushent but sung by McCoy, 'Rise', a song echoing the opening track's theme about coming through difficult times, is another jazzy number with echoes of late 60s pastoral progfolk, a contrast to McCoy's fingerpicked resonator guitar-based love song 'Universe and You' with its cello and violin shades.

Trailing Joni Mitchell ribbons, Rennie returns to the spotlight for the propulsive shuffling rhythm of 'Love and Light', the title belying the lyrics about insisting everything is roses while ignoring the blight eating away at the relationship. Then it's back to McCoy for the next two tracks, both a Spanish air and a reggae undercurrent carrying along 'Queso', so titled because she thought a song about how music helps people be themselves might be seen as a bit cheesy, while, continuing the theme of finding strength and again, presumably, related to her own battles with mental health, 'Wandering Soul' is a punchy, violin-bolstered, slap rhythm folk rock tune about that burning fire in the heart and how what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Co-penned by McCoy and Rennie, the album heads into the final stretch with 'Overflow', a fingerpicked leafy folk number featuring aching violin and recorder solo which offers reminder about our connection to the land. Accompanied by dulcimer and reedy recorder,Tuffery's second vocal and composition contribution, 'Closer To You', again concerns returning home to a loved one, albeit apparently seen through the lens of a werewolf. Fingerpicking guitar with cello and violin underscoring the emotional core, even though it's titled 'Last Train' McCoy ends things by bringing the imagery full circle by returning to the motif of a plane in flight as a metaphor for healing, here a failed relationship that fades into the recesses of memory.

For an album with four lead singers and a mix of influences, this is actually a musically cohesive collection that clearly illustrates the intuitive fluid interplay between the instruments and, given the necessary exposure and supported by herding all concerned cats into a tour van to spread the word, bodes well for the future.

Mike Davies