Des Horsfall’s Kuschty Rye: The Good Gentleman’s Tonic / The Bastard’s Tin – album review
Des Horsfall’s Kuschty Rye
The Good Gentleman’s Tonic / The Bastard’s Tin
CD | DL
Louder Than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews the first two instalments of Des Horsfall’s album trilogy inspired by the legendary Ronnie Lane.
Des Horsfall is a West Yorshire based musician who after a life of playing in bands and very nearly making it in the mid-nineties retreated to his hometown of Hebden Bridge to set-up his own recording facility Valve Studios. Nevertheless Des still felt that there was some music left in him. Revisiting his record collection, he stumbled on Ronnie Lane’s 1974 LP “Anymore for Anymore”, a remarkable collection of gentle and pastoral tunes that had always been one of his favourite records. Much of Lane’s post Faces catalogue was (and remains) out of print and Des felt that Ronnie’s work could do with a little bit of extra exposure. Rather than going for a full album of covers, Des with the help of his friends and musicians elaborated a plan to release a trilogy of LP’s where new songs would mix with Ronnie Lane covers and narratives.
The First instalment “The Good Gentleman’s Tonic” was released in 2011. Coming out on Des’s own Valve Records, it’s a lovingly recorded album full of good tunes and humour. Horsfall’s originals far from being carbon copies or imitations of Lane’s songs, are close in spirit and delivery with the mostly acoustic instrumentation. Fiddles and Mandolins abound. Opener “Careless Love” features some nice honkytonk piano fills and the accordion in the background gives it a distinctive sound. The second track “Hard Woman” has a bluesier feel and contains some humorous lyrics that I’m sure the notoriously mischievous Mr Lane would have approved, it also features Benny Gallagher (of Gallagher and Lyle fame) on harmony vocals and harmonica. Benny and Graham Lyle toured with Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance for a little bit after the release of “Anymore For Anymore”. The lively instrumental “Chunggdiddly” featuring Slim Chance members Steve Simpson and Charlie Hart is a nice interlude and precedes the excellent “Nothing New” with its bouncy accordion that gives it a Cajun feeling (sounds like a lost Balham Alligators track).
One thing that needs to be noted is that apart from Des, only two other musicians feature on the album, Katriona Gilmore on Fiddle, Mandolin and vocals and Andy McKerlie who plays just about everything else !!!! Much of the great instrumentation on the record can be attributed to him. Des’s songs have a more American sound than Ronnie Lane’s, the intro to “Something’s Wrong” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tom Petty record. The single of the album “Long Long Time” is probably the catchiest song on the record, lovely pedal steel parts in the background that mesh in nicely with the fiddle while The affecting “Random Act Of Kindness” is not a Horsfall written tune but he definitely makes it his own. The instrumental “Chunggadiddlydumdee” reprises the melody “Chunggdiddly” but with a rockier edge and “No-one Talks” closes the album on a note not too dissimilar to Lane’s version of “Goodnight Irene”.
The second part of the record is inspired by the Small Face’s “Odgen Nuts Gone Flake” album and features John Unwin (who sadly passed away since), the son of Stanley Unwin the narrator on the Small Faces LP. The songs from the first half are interspersed with a story about Des’s quest for inspiration and the creation of his Kuschty Rye band. The record ends with a reworked version of “The Poacher”, one of Lane’s most well known tunes.
Fast forward 4 years and the follow up “The Bastard’s Tin” is finally available (albeit only in Hebden Bridge’s local record shop Muse Music) in a limited 400 CD’s run. The Bastard’s Tin comes in top notch packaging with the CD, booklet and numbered certificate neatly packaged in a metal box that fits in a cardboard slipcase. Des is currently negotiating with labels to enable The Bastard’s Tin to have a bigger distribution than its predecessor. The record this time is based around the recollections of Kate Lane, Ronnie’s second wife who was with him during his Slim Chance days. The record is a mix of Ronnie Lane originals and Horsfall classics and its second half is interspersed with Kate recalling key moments of her life with Ronnie. After country noises segue into a short extract from “Single Saddle” from the Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance LP, the opening track “Chameleon” reveals itself as an absolute masterpiece of a song. Featuring lyrics courtesy of Kate Lane, music by Pete Townshend (who duets with Des on vocals) and fiddle parts played by Charlie Hart and Steve Simpson, the song is an affecting love letter from Kate to her former husband.
After this we get 6 original Horsfall originals and what a selection they prove to be. The jaunty “I Know A Little Bit (About A Lot Of Things)” speeds at at rollicking pace with Des’s lyrics revolving about the help he received from Katie Lane and Pete Townshend on this record. “Richmond Green” is probably the closest to a Ronnie Lane pastiche. An excellent song nevertheless, it features accordions quite high in the mix which coupled with an harmonica sounds great. “That’s Not On” is another great rollicking tune and the country tinged “Whisky On Your Breath” shows the full range of Des’s musical chops. Another stand out track is the “Further Down Line” with its gently strummed verses and catchy chorus, that song deserves to be heard by the masses. The record is divided into 3 parts and this last tune closes the “morning” section. “afternoon” consists of Ronnie Lane classics interspersed with the memories of Katie Lane. Opening with the instrumental “Katie’s Jig”, we then get treated to Katie’s story about her escapade with Ronnie in the aftermath of his departure from The Faces. An excellent cover of The Who’s “Going Mobile” is followed by a rework of a lost 90’s classic, Des’s very own “Whistle To Blow”, a song that nearly got him a major record deal.
The next 4 songs are reinterpretations of some of Ronnie Lane’s greatest songs. The fantastic Stone written while Ronnie was still in his late teens is accompanied by another nice introduction courtesy of Kate Lane, this spirited rendition compares pretty well with the original. The legendary “Debris” (maybe Lane’s best song), gets a completely acoustic treatment where the piano parts of the original are supplanted by violin. Again a faithful rendition that manages to breathe fresh air into a classic. “Tin And Tambourine” with its Kate Lane penned lyrics is followed by the sing-along “Ooh La La”, probably one of the best songs Ronnie wrote for The Faces. Kuscthy Rye’s version keeps the camp fire feel of the version Ronnie Lane used to play with Slim Chance. The record closes on “Goodnight Irene”, a song that finished many a Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance gig.
All words by Craig Chaligne. More from Craig can be found at his Author Archive.