Review Archive

The Woodbine & Ivy Band - traditional, innovative folk

(November 14, 2011)

The Woodbine & Ivy Band, a collective with superlative musical flair, perform traditional songs in an innovative folk rock vein. They also employ the talents of an equally exceptional company of The Woodbine & Ivy Bandoutstanding singers to handle lead vocals. The consequence of that assemblage is the eponymous, imaginative album: ‘The Woodbine & Ivy Band’. And in case you’re unsure - it’s remarkable.

 Opening with an inspired version of ‘Spencer The Rover’ Fay Hield’s gorgeous vocal rides across a web of pedal steel, piano, trumpet and The Woodbine Singers. This is a dazzling song which, if there’s any justice will break folk rock back into the Christmas charts. Their hard-hitting version of ‘Alison Gross’ benefits from on-the-mark vocals from Rapunzel & Sedayne, along with razor-sharp drumming and eerie synth effects. Their outings into gruesome and chilling narrative include the deathly appetites of ‘Twa Corbies’ and the cheerless tale of ‘Poor Murdered Woman’, while Elle Osborne adds her fragile, arresting voice to the beautiful ‘Under the Leaves’. There’s a step change as Jim Causley sings a lusty ‘Out With My Gun in the Morning’ - again driven by guitars and drums. And to close there’s ‘Roaming Journeyman’ a towering song that combines more crashing percussion, unearthly synthesiser effects from Raz Ullah (a touch of space-folk anyone?) plus the presence of their potent choir.

With this album The Woodbine & Ivy Band deliver a unique folk rock platform for traditional song. There’s often predictability about folk rock – not so here. This deftly weaves its way through the English and Scottish folk tradition with an amalgam of guitars, bass, drums and percussion, pedal steel, harp, trumpet, piano and synthesisers. Hailing from a disparate range of musical disciplines, perhaps the catalyst for their inventive approach, the musicians bring their myriad influences to bear on ten exceptional renderings of traditional songs.

As the blurb says: “The singers were initially invited to perform the songs a cappella ... the band used these performances as guide to the choice of instrumentation and the mood of the arrangements.” I have to tell you the choices they made were the right ones – the result is a landmark album that all folk rock devotees will want in their collection. The album is available from Folk Police Recordings (FPR 004).

The artists on ‘The Woodbine & Ivy Band’ are: The musicians: John Ellis (piano, Hammond organ) Rachael Gladwin (harp) Luke Das-Gupta (trumpet, flugelhorn) Alan Cook (pedal steel) Michael Doward (bass guitar, double bass) Sam Leach (percussion) Karl Penney (drums, percussion) Peter Philipson (guitars) and Raz Ullah (synthesisers). The singers: Jackie Oates, Fay Hield, Rapunzel & Sedayne, Elle Osborne, Nancy Wallace, Olivia Chaney, Pinkie Maclure, James Reynard and Jim Causley. And of course, The Woodbine Chorus Singers.

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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