‘Harlequins’ from Russell Joslin “… darkness and despair, edgy and dangerous”(February 03, 2015)
Anyone describing ‘Harlequins’ from singer-songwriter Russell Joslin, as folk music should admit, if asked, that their taste is wide and varied, with any proclivity towards definitions and classification, equally expansive. There are elements of a folk influence wafting around within this self-penned music, should you care to look for it - and believe me you should.
The album opener ‘Up With The Birds’ begins with strummed guitar following a personal narrative that opens up through a move to ripping guitar, incisive violin and thunderous rhythm section – if this is folk, then it’s extreme folk at its best. The transition into rock-folk continues into the equally hard-driving ‘Our Queen’ and through the highly memorable, incisive lyrics of‘What A Waste’ with its punchy percussion, sharp saxophone cuts and desolate lyrics, before the percussion-driven power of‘The Weight of This Room’ punches you back into more rock inspired folk. Just as your settling into this album, Joslin lets more of the Americana folk genie out of the bottle with ‘Pittsburgh It Is’ awash with suppliant vocals, picked guitar and achingly defined cello, ‘Doves May Fly’ continues in a similar vein before the folky side edges into view once more with ‘Robin In Black’ – hard messaged, lyrically rich and filled with more hooks than an angler’s bag.
Playing on ‘Harlequins’ are Russell Joslin (guitars, vocals) Rolfin Nyhus (bass guitar) Rob Clarke (drums) with on selected tracks, Sarah McCaig (vocals) Anna Scott (cello) Tarik Mecci (trombone) Georgina Leach (violin) and Erica Clarke (tenor saxophone). Find Russell Joslin and ‘Harlequins’ here: www.russelljoslinmusic.co.uk
By any casual observation, ‘Harlequins’ is far closer to rock mixed with blues than it is to any habitual definition of folk but that’s part of the freedom-potential applicable to folk music. Let slip the restrictions of definition and anything is possible. Joslin’s keening voice is suffused with overtones of darkness and despair, his music edgy and dangerous, the result is an album that takes progression to positive places. This may be the rockiest folk you’ll hear but were I you, I would give it a go.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll