‘Red Diesel’ from Pilgrims' Way - reverence for tradition, flair for creativity(March 10, 2016)
This is clearly the year for artists taking significant breaks between debut album and its follow up. Between the seriously good ‘Wayside Courtesies’ in 2011 to ‘Red Diesel’ in 2016, Pilgrims' Way have certainly taken their time and along the way grown to 4-piece – with Lucy Wright, Tom Kitching and Edwin Beasant, now joined by Jon Loomes. However, I’m pleased to confirm that their musical hiatus, caused by the no mean feat of Lucy completing a PhD, is followed by an album that is likely to exceed the heights reached by its predecessor.
There remains the original reverence for and accomplished delivery of the tradition, fearless arrangements that add innovation to heritage and a demonstrable flair for creativity. Listening to Red Diesel is not only a delightful experience it’s an incredulity-stretching experience as Pilgrims' Way demonstrate their talent-set with the expressive singing of Lucy, fiddle-driven energy and passion from Tom, while Edwin and Jon prove their incredible multi-instrumental skill playing practically everything that can be struck, plucked and blown.
There’s touches of militaria with ‘Rout Of The Blues’, the jaunty ‘The Light Dragoon’, a hunting song ‘Howden Town’ otherwise known as ‘The White Hare’ and a splendid couplet of tune and song with ‘Mount Hills/ Ride In The Creel’. There’s invention with an absorbing version of Mike Heron’s ‘Chinese White’ re-named ‘Magic Christmas Tree’ - prog-folk at its best, the beautifully delivered, classic narrative of ‘True Lover John’ and to push whatever boundaries they may or may not perceive, there’s an enthralling take on Paul Simon’s ‘The Boy In The Bubble’ - precisely as it should sound. Pilgrims’ Way move through English folk with an assuredness that makes it easy to position ‘Red Diesel’ as a five-star album ... and one that any self-respecting folkie must own.
Playing on ‘Red Diesel’ are Lucy Wright (vocals, Jews harp, fiddle) Tom Kitching (fiddle, mandolin, viola, backing vocals) Edwin Beasant (melodeon, electric acoustic and bass guitars, stomp, cymbals, snare drum, shakers, harmonica, bodhran, contra bass bugle, trombone, octave fiddle, mandola, backing vocals) and Jon Loomes (acoustic guitar, English concertina, fiddle, viola, cello, double bass, mandolin, cittern, hurdy gurdy, banjo, Hammond organ, bell tree, piano, recorder, saxophone, flute, spoons, melodica, trumpet, backing vocals, and with doubtless due deference to Viv Stanshall: two slightly distorted electric guitars, tubular bells) and featuring Gill Loomes (hammered dulcima, cornet, backing vocals) Johnny Adams (trombone) Alice Jones (clarinet) Jake Jones (euphonium) and Mike Beal (bass).
Review: Tim Carroll