Reviews roundup – Jethro Tull vs. Beatrix Players vs. Ned Roberts vs. Amelia Curran
The String Quartets
There was always a touch of the art and the fart about Ian Anderson so it’s not a huge surprise to learn that he’s gone the whole hog and re-imagined some Jethro Tull oldies in classical style. I say Ian Anderson but it’s been arranged by John O’Hara (who arrived in Tull circa 2006)for the Carducci string quartet.
Of course whenever you have the flute and vocals of Ian Anderson then it’s going to sound Tull-like and this is no exception. Tull fans will also be delighted that bar a reworked “Farm On The Freeway” from ‘Crest of a Knave’ it really is the cream of the crop.
A lot of the more pastoral work of Jethro Tull already had a classical air about it so something like “Songs and Horses” (Songs From The Wood/Heavy Horses) lends itself easily to the new arrangements. The other highlight was “Velvet Gold” (Velvet Green from Songs From The Wood) which is just beautiful. There is only one clunker as “Aquafugue” (Aqualung) doesn’t lend itself easily to the sound. But that aside this will be an unexpected delight for Jethro Tull fans who may not have expected anything new.
Ostensibly a female folk trio, the Beatrix Players came as a wee bit of a surprise to me. Because they’re actually very dark, moody and cinematic.
It’s the kind of music you would expect to hear over the closing credits of Van Helsing rather than out and out folk music. So it’s more for fans of Kate Bush than Kate Rusby. There’s some striking use of a cello, lots of melancholy vibes and some rather striking songs.
It’s certainly not easy listening as they weave their way through some enchanted and mystical forests on their way to the witches house. Songs like “Lady of the Lake”, “Not For The First Time” and “Obey Me” would sit happily in a steampunk version of the Brothers Grimm. Which is a good thing by the way.
It sounds good as well with their self-produced debut album getting a mixing sheen from two-time BBC Folk Award winner, Jim Moray. An excellent start.
Outside My Mind
I don’t know if it’s some kind of hipster hangover but you can’t move nowadays for beardy blokes who really wish it was 1973 and that they were all hanging out round Joni Mitchells house in Laurel Canyon letting it all hang out. Man..
Ned Roberts is one such beardy bloke and despite having unlistenable tosh like Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen being thrown in his direction he actually is a lot closer in spirit and sound to the likes of Donovan and Cat Stevens. Which is a good thing. See, sometimes things are popular for a reason.
Mr Roberts is no stranger to a melody and a hook which lifts his music beyond so many wannabees who think that sixth form poetry and an acoustic are all you need. It’s all you need if you want to earn tuppence ha’penny busking outside Debenhams but not if you want people to buy your record. So despite some so-so lyrics songs like “Through The Arches”, “Angel Station” and “Lights On The River” actually stand up to repeated plays as he wanders through a folk / country / pop maze. A good one.
Standing in the same field as Ned Roberts is Canadian Juno award winning songwriter Amelia Curran.
I really enjoyed her last record, “They Promised You Mercy”, back in 2014. It was her seventh album but my first encounter and I called her music “heartfelt and bounteous “. Which was nice of me.
Three years on and I’m not so sure about this one. See I’m poor white trash and while I don’t mind people blethering on about their feelings on a record I have a bit of trouble when someone hits me with a sentence like “Curran’s music is distinguished by her intricate and elliptical lyrics, geologic in their resilience and oceanic in their depths”.
I have no idea what that means although apparently “Curran’s music helps us make sense of the heart’s imperceptible, relentless attrition.” WTF. What I heard were a few nice folk / pop tunes with some hippy trippy lyrics. I wouldn’t change channels if “Move A Mile”, “Sunday Bride” or “Stranger Things Have Happened” came on the radio but I wouldn’t move mountains to hear them. A lot of the melodicism seems to have vanished since the last release with a good few songs going nowhere. There’s a nice EP in here but that’s about it.