Bellowhead: Broadside (Navigator Records)
CD/DL/LP
Out: 15th October

Mighty English folk ensemble Bellowhead are stealing themselves for the release of the follow up to 2010’s incredible award winning album Hedonism. LTW’s Adrian Bloxham has been listening to a pre-release copy of Broadside & in a nutshell he really likes what he’s been hearing.

Bellowhead are a contemporary folk band, eleven members making the largest, wide open sound you will hear on a folk album this year. Everything fits, it all works and the songs are wonderful.

”˜Byker Hill and Walker Shore, Collier lads for ever more’..except of course they aren’t any more. The social clubs remain, the tenement rows of houses are still there. But the pits are gone. This is more than a proud folk song, it’s a history lesson, of a community stripped of it’s identity and it’s industry. ”˜Byker Hill’ reflects this, the noise here a mile away from hey diddly dey folk. This is what we are, it shouts, this is where we live, you can’t take it away from us, defiant and loud.

”˜The Old Dun Cow’, another traditional folk song is given a creepy atmospheric soundtrack for the tale of the pub on fire and the revellers trying desperately to finish the booze off before it burns down. The music lurches and spirals like a drunk. ”˜Roll the Woodpile Down’ is a sea shanty, much more folk sounding, the fiddle and drum circling each other, the story of a black sailor ”˜a black man’s wage is never high’. The love of the sea is reflected in the music washing back and forth with a light touch that makes you smile. In ‘10,000 Miles Away’ (see below) he’s going far far away and he won’t be back and he is leaving his sweetheart behind. The fiddles opening up and giving a big open sound like the horizon before the ship.

Next is a sad song of lost love ”˜Betsy Baker’ that is regretful. The music has the pomp and tempo of the sixties Kinks classics. The brass cementing this feel making the song rich. ”˜Black Beetle Pies’ has the least folk sound here, the xylophone makes it edgy and spiky. The music is like a broken fairground, a house of fun gone mad, the voice like a bad dream, all in all a deeply unsettling song. ”˜Thousands or More’ is a celebration of the common man who has little, wants little and is content. Somewhere I would like to be myself. ”˜Dockside Rant/ Sailing On the Tide’ is an instrumental sea shanty, music to dance and drink to in a shady pub by the harbour.

”˜The Wife Of Usher’s Well’ is an old song, again it’s brooding, dark and close. It’s a story of a mother waiting for her dead sons to return, it’s gothic sounding music frames it brilliantly. ”˜What’s the Life of a Man’ is pompous with brass. It pounds and sounds like a music hall chorus, the verses are quieter and tell the story of the man’s life, the overriding feel is the how a man’s life is no more than a leaf, withering and fading.

”˜Lillibulero’ is a joyous sounding romp. The story behind the song sounds dark but the music lifts you up into sunshine. ”˜Go My Way’ begins with the sound of a brass band which segues into a courting song, an old fashioned phrase for a remarkably new sounding song.

This is not what I expected from a folk album, there are fiddles and shanties, but they are a part of something larger and more complex. This is the sound of Britain as was, and of Britain moving forward into the future.

Bellowhead’s website is here and the band are on Facebook here.

All words by Adrian Bloxham. You can read more from Adrian on LTW here.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting point about Byker Hill, and the fact that the collier lads weren’t neccessarily for ‘ever more’ after all. Though I’d point out that this song, a “history lesson, of a community stripped of it\’s [sic] identity and it\’s [sic] industry”, contains the lines: “Geordie Johnson had a pig / And he hit it with a shovel and it danced a jig”.

    Also, The Old Dun Cow is not a traditional song, it was written by Harry Wincott.

    Looking forward to hearing the album though!

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