Album: The Imagined Village, Empire & Love (ECC)
Friday 08 January 2010
Simon Emmerson's folk/world project becomes a much firmer, more focused aggregation than on its 2007 debut.
The programmed beats are pared back to a minimum in order to allow the rhythm section room to devise a range of more subtle, organic, grooves, with sitar the sole non-British frontline element in what is now more obviously a band sound.
The result is a quantum leap beyond the first Imagined Village album, refurbishing the mostly traditional folk material in a variety of potent new arrangements, but now fronted by the band's core trio of singers (Martin Carthy, Chris Woods, and Eliza Carthy) rather than an endless series of guest vocalists. It's effective in so many ways: "Mermaid", with its droning violins and accordion and loping double-bass funk groove, is like an English folk take on Miles Davis's "Kind Of Blue", while "The Handweaver and the Factory Maid" has the casual gait and warm texture of a JJ Cale piece transposed to the English pastoral tradition. The Eastern-tinged folk groove to "Sweet Jane", with its Indian-style violin lines and skirling drones, is a extension of what Fairport Convention heralded with "A Sailor's Life", while the blend of sitar and guitar picking on "My Son John" recalls the classic Incredible String Band ethnic-crossover experiments. Drawn from Martin Carthy's extensive repertoire, the song is a Napoleonic anti-war ballad about crippled cannon-fodder, brought bang up to date to reflect the toll paid by amputee veterans of Blair's wars.
Carthy's back-catalogue furnishes several other songs: "Byker Hill" is set to a 9/8 rhythm, with a mid-section of angelic overlapping harmonies repeating the title like a mantra, eventually leading into a coda of dervish fiddle, sitar and harmonies; and two versions of "Scarborough Fair", with sitar added to Carthy's definitive guitar arrangement, are sung by Woods, one with a ghostly undertow of accordion, later reprised with added strings. Elsewhere, Eliza Carthy delivers Ewan MacColl's "Space Girl" – essentially, the extension of parochial suspicion of outsiders to cover interplanetary travellers – with real pop aplomb.
It speaks volumes about the band's versatility that they adapt as easily to this as to the album's more earthbound themes, of which the most startling is undoubtedly a version of Slade's "Cum On Feel The Noize" turned into a combination folk lament and invitation to the dance: with the world-weariness of Martin Carthy's delivery spiked by his daughter's descant harmony, and wistful fiddle and sitar further emphasising the mood of poignant yearning.
Download this My Son John; Sweet Jane; Scarborough Fair; Space Girl; Mermaid
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 2 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 3 Exclusive: Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse
- 4 Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
- 5 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Orange Is The New Black season 3: Pornstache isn't coming back
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
Guardians Of The Galaxy, review: Marvel-lite movie feels half-hearted
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss