By Duncan McFarlane Band
After having had the pleasure of catching this band live several times I had very high expectations of this album. Recorded at Pravda Studios in Headingley this is essentially their first fully realised studio album.
With the term 'folk rock' a much abused and often underrated term they have delivered a storming, fluid, and dynamic record which captures the spirit not only of the bands recent live displays but also of the way they can take a relatively standard band format of guitar, fiddle, bass and drums and blend them with the finest parts of the folk genre with Duncan adding his own idiosyncratic observations on the world, tremendous stuff.
The opener 'Bring 'En Down' kicks off with a rolling cittern riff before powering into a belter of a tune, well arranged and performed with zest, sets you up nicely for the rest of the album.
The musical and vocal interplay between Duncan, Anne, Geoff, Steve, Tony and Nick is most evident on tracks such as 'The Woodshed Boys' a tale which tells the sorrowful story of folk legends such as Harry Cox and Walter Pardon being banished to their sheds in order to indulge themselves in that there 'folk singing'! With tumbling drums and on the button bass this song surfs along complete with Hammond-like swirls from Steve Fairholme's melodeon.
Geoff Taylors liquid 70's influenced guitar dominates the trad tune 'Canadee-I-O' arranged by Duncan, a song which he respectfully doffs his cap towards the transcendental Nic Jones. 'Benjamin Bowmaneer' remains a great tune and for me blows the dust of older versions I've heard of this song.
Set pieces such as 'Jigalo' date from as far back as 1977 and were originally played by Duncan and Geoff in their old band 'Luigi Ana Da Boys' with the late great John Peel (RIP) giving it a spin back in the day.
Duncan's song writing continues to develop throughout the record with increasing evidence of his knack of taking the listener on a journey introducing themes and characters as they venture along, great stuff.
The production remains crisp and focused, and as far as I'm aware the rhythm section recorded live to maintain the groove and dynamics of a live show.
Some themes run through the album, drinking songs, songs of alienation, songs of love, and songs of hope. Guests are given the freedom and scope to stamp themselves on the record with folk alumni Alistair Hulett, Maggie Boyle and Alistair Russell contributing some fine vocal and flute pieces.
The record moves further away from Duncan's solo performances with increased imaginative arrangements and huge blustering rock choruses and play outs. The closer 'Goodnight' demonstrates a gentler, slightly more pastoral element to the album, with Duncan and Maggie's voices blending perfectly with band and friends joining in at the end for a good old sing song. Wonderful!
If you haven't seen or heard this band do it now, catch them live, buy a live album from them, buy this album!
Celebratory music, spiritually uplifting stuff, a belter!