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BELLOWHEAD Matachin Navigator Records (2008)


The eleven-piece English folk band certainly covers many musical bases from folk through to jazz and big band. Like Brass Monkey and the Albion band Bellowhead rely heavily on brass instruments to create a unique sound, which blend surprisingly well when added to the traditional songs featured on here.

Opener 'Fakenham Fair' begins with a mixture of brass and percussion, then in come strings and vocals, topped off with some nice sax solos. There is a cracking sea shanty on here, namely 'Roll her Down The Bay' and for a good old sing-a-long you can't fault 'I Drew My Ship Across The Harbour', which veers off into jazz and all sorts along the way. Great fun to listen to and I am sure would be superb to listen to in a live setting.

A Rudyard Kipling poem 'Cholera Camp' gets set to music with a military marching band tempo and enjoyable lyrics to match. It is a strange song though as you have this jolly uptempo tune set to a grim lyrical subject! 'Whiskey Is The Life Of Man' is another rousing sing-a-long you could imagine the Dubliners having fun with this one.

Only the solemn refrains of 'Widow's Curse' fails to grab the listener and does seem out of cinq with the rest of the album's musical flow. The vocals of Jon Boden carry along the tunes and like may folk singers he may not have the greatest voice but more than makes up for it in his delivery and enthusiasm.

The 'big band folk' approach of Bellowhead may turn off some folk purists but that is their loss as this album is brim full of musical delights and deserves a wide audience. Live I would imagine these songs really come into their own.


Review by Jason Ritchie

Best of 2008

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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