Watch the New King Charles Video “Gamble for a Rose”

King Charles
Image Courtesy of King Charles

English singer-songwriter King Charles is one of those artists that has been kicking around the UK nu-folk scene for a few years now but is only starting to get some attention in Australia.

King Charles will be releasing his new album Gamble For A Rose on the 22nd January which was recorded in the English countryside with Marcus Mumford. The album’s title track is also the latest single – check out the video for “Gamble for a Rose” below and let us know what you think:

Review: Various, Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

I think when the producers of Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis decided to put the concert, and subsequent documentary and record, together they were expecting to capture lightning in a bottle, the same way the O Brother Where Art Thou? concert Down from the Mountain had done over ten years previously. And they had every right to as all the elements were there: a Coen Brothers film jam-packed with T Bone Burnett produced folk music, performances from some of contemporary folk and acoustic music’s biggest names and a reference point to a music, time and place that is beloved by millions.

But somehow they didn’t quite hit the mark.

Not to say this isn’t a great album – it certainly is. There are a lot of highlights throughout. But it’s not the kind of album I can enjoy from start to finish, not the way I can with Down from the Mountain or even the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack (the intentionally terrible “Please Mr. Kennedy” aside). And I think it’s for a number of reasons.

Firstly there’s too much Americana and Bluegrass music. I never thought I’d hear myself say that but it’s true. So much of the Greenwich Village folk revival was centred around traditional music from England, Scotland and Ireland and while bluegrass and country music was a part of the scene (and no doubt influenced many of the singers and songwriters of the time) it wasn’t the focus – if anything blues was more of an influence at the time. The movie soundtrack itself only really has nods to this kind of music and instead focuses on traditional music plus traditionally inspired songs from the time like Ewan MacColl’s “The Shoals of Herring” or Brendan Behan’s “The Auld Triangle”, and I think the live album should have gone the same way.

Secondly it takes 10 songs before we even hear a track from the movie and even then it’s the aforementioned intentionally terrible “Please Mr. Kennedy”. Similarly there seems to be too many originals on the album – albeit from amazing artists like Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch, Jack White and more – to claim to be “Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis”.

And finally there are some glaring misses in the programming of the concert. I love Conor Oberst to death but his inclusion here is misplaced – his waspish voice just doesn’t seem to fit with the tone of the concert. Similarly I’m not sure we needed three tracks from a ho-hum Avett Brothers when the brilliant Keb’ Mo’ only gets one.

But all of this aside there is a lot to like about Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis. Having the Punch Brothers acting essentially as the house band on many of the tracks elevates so many of the songs. The second half of the album which showcases a lot more of the songs from the actual movie – “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me”. “Green, Green Rocky Road”, “The Auld Triangle”, “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)”, etc – shows just how well these songs (and their singers) stack up live. Oscar Isaac, the actor who played Llewyn Davis in the film is surprisingly solid as is Marcus Mumford who is relegated to backing vocals and drums on a lot of the tracks but comes to fore in the final four songs to prove just how good a singer he is.

Once again Rhiannon Giddens is an absolute standout. Her version of the Gaelic “S iomadh rud tha dhith orm/Ciamar a ni mi ‘n dannsa direach” is the only track I just had to go back and listen to twice on my first time through the album, it was so good. And then of course there’s Joan Baez, proving exactly why she’s a legend, outclassing Elvis Costello on a duet of “Which Side Are You On?” and absolutely killing it on “House of the Rising Sun” and “Give Me Cornbread When I’m Hungry”.

I think my advice with this album is not to go in with any pre-conceptions – either from the O Brother Where Art Thou? and Inside Llewyn Davis or from Down from the Mountain. Instead listen to Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis in isolation, pick and choose the individual tracks you want to buy (you’ll want more than you’ll leave behind) and enjoy the music as is sounds like the live audience did.

Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis is available now on iTunes

Watch the New Video From The New Basement Tapes, “Liberty Street”

The New Basement Tapes
Image Courtesy of The New Basement Tapes

The latest single from The New Basement Tapes, made up of Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons), is “Liberty Street” which has its own lyric video. The track is taken from the upcoming T Bone Burnett produced album Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes which sees the band putting music to “lost” Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967. The album is due for release on the 6th November.

Check out the lyric video for “Liberty Street” below:

Details of the Inside Llewyn Davis Live Album

Inside Llewyn Davis

I’m going to admit right here that after all the hype I ended up feeling pretty “meh” about the Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis. I have a love-hate relationship with the Coen Brothers – I absolutely love their quirky comedies but their existential dramas can get lost on me, especially when their lead characters are unlikeable like the case was with Inside Llewyn Davis. So I was a little bit disappoted with the film, but the soundtrack I absolutely lobe.

To coincide with the release of the film last year the Coen Brothers and musical director T Bone Burnett held a benefit concert featuring music from the film, the 60s folk era and music along the same folk lines at the Town Hall in New York featuring music from the likes of Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings Machine, The Milk Carton Kids, Secret Sisters, Lake Street Dive, Elvis Costello, Oscar Isaac, Conor Oberst, Colin Meloy, Joan Baez, The Avett Brothers, Jack White, Marcus Mumford and more.

The concert is now being released as a two disc live album titled Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis and is due for release on the 13th January. The full tracklist for the album is below – can’t wait t have a listen to this one!

Disc 1:
1. Punch Brothers – Tumbling Tumbleweed
2. Punch Brothers – Rye Whiskey
3. Gillian Welch – Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
4. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – The Way It Goes
5. Willie Watson – The Midnight Special
6. Dave Rawlings Machine – I Hear Them All/This Land Is Your Land
7. The Milk Carton Kids – New York
8. Secret Sisters – Tomorrow Will Be Kinder
9. Lake Street Dive – You Go Down Smooth
10. Elvis Costello, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver – Please Mr. Kennedy
11. Conor Oberst – Four Strong Winds
12. Conor Oberst – Man Named Truth
13. Colin Meloy – Blues Run the Game
14. Joan Baez, Colin Meloy, and Gillian Welch – Joe Hill
15. The Avett Brothers – All My Mistakes
16. The Avett Brothers – That’s How I Got to Memphis
17. The Avett Brothers – Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

Disc 2:
1. Jack White – Mama’s Angel Child
2. Jack White – Did You Hear John Hurt?
3. Jack White – We’re Going to Be Friends
4. Rhiannon Giddens – Waterboy
5. Rhiannon Giddens – ‘S iomadh rud tha dhith orm/Ciamar a ni mi ‘n dannsa direach
6. Oscar Isaac – Hang Me, Oh Hang Me
7. Oscar Isaac – Green, Green Rocky Road
8. Keb’ Mo’ – Tomorrow Is a Long Time
9. Bob Neuwirth – Rock Salt and Nails
10. Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, Paul Kowert, Marcus Mumford, Noam Pikelny and Gabe Witcher – The Auld Triangle
11. Gillian Welch, Rhiannon Giddens and Carey Mulligan – Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby
12. Elvis Costello and Joan Baez – Which Side Are You On?
13. Joan Baez – House of the Rising Sun
14. Marcus Mumford and Joan Baez – Give Me Cornbread When I’m Hungry
15. Marcus Mumford- I Was Young When I Left Home
16. Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford – Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)
17. Marcus Mumford and the Punch Brothers – Farewell

Listen to Four Tracks From Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes

The New Basement Tapes
Image Courtesy of The New Basement Tapes

Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes is the upcoming album that brings together a treasure trove of recently discovered lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 with icons of modern folk, roots and popular music Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons).

The group, billed as The New Basement Tapes, came together this March to put 26-year old Dylan’s words to music for the project, all produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett. The result, Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes, is due for release on the 6th November. Check out the track listing here:

1. Down On The Bottom
2. Married To My Hack
3. Kansas City
4. Spanish Mary
5. Liberty Street
6. Nothing To It
7. Golden Tom – Silver Judas
8. When I Get My Hands On You
9. Duncan and Jimmy
10. Florida Key
11. Hidee Hidee Ho #11
12. Lost On The River #12
13. Stranger
14. Card Shark
15. Quick Like A Flash
16. Hidee Hidee Ho #16
17. Diamond Ring
18. The Whistle Is Blowing
19. Six Months In Kansas City (Liberty Street)
20. Lost On The River #20

So far four of the tracks have been revealed form the album in the form of lyric videos and we thought we’d collect them here for your easy viewing pleasure. Take a listen to “Nothing To It”, “Married To My Hack”, “When I Get My Hands On You” and “Spanish Mary” below and tell us what you think:




Gareth Hugh Evans’ Top 25 Tracks of 2013

2013

Are you sick of end of year lists yet? Well stay patient because we’ve got one more for you. Our esteemed Editor in Chief Gareth Hugh Evans has picked his top 25 songs of the year.

There were so many amazing tracks released this year and so many deserving songs didn’t make the cut. Check out what 25 songs Gareth picked and then dive back through the Timber and Steel archives for more amazing music from 2013.

1. Melody Pool – “Henry”
This was the song that made me fall in love with Melody Pool when I saw her the Gulgong Folk Festival way back in January. It’s no wonder this song won Pool the songwriter award at the Telstra Road to Discovery – it really is something special. If you haven’t heard Melody Pool’s amazing album The Hurting Scene from which this track is taken then do yourself a favour and pick it up right now.
Read Timber and Steel’s Spotlight on Melody Pool here

2. William Fitzsimmons – “Centralia”
This song is so recent it hasn’t actually officially been released yet (the video is an acoustic version of the track which is due to appear on next year’s album Lions) but it’s just stunning. From the moment I first heard this on Youtube I was in love – I can’t wait until William Fitzsimmons releases an entire album full of music just like this next year.
Read details of the upcoming William Fitzsimmons album Lions here

3. Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer – “Geordie (Child 209)”
Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer have made traditional music cool again. Releasing Child Ballads, an album of songs collected by the great Francis James Child back in the 1800s, the two singers are continuing the folk process and reinventing these songs for another generation of music lovers. Sublime.
Read Mackajay’s review of Child Ballads here

4. Mumford and Sons – “Hopeless Wanderer”
I have to admit that “Hopeless Wanderer” was not an immediate favourite of mine from Babel. I initially found its choppy dynamics and rhythm off-putting and to me the song was only redeemed by the harmonies in the chorus. But the song has grown on me throughout 2013 and now it’s a firm favourite – definitely helped by what is probably the best folky film clip of the year.
Read Gareth Hugh Evans’ feelings on the Mumford and Sons hiatus here

5. Vance Joy – “Riptide”
“Riptide” has definitely been a slow burner for Vance Joy but it’s finished the year super strongly and scored him accolades, record contracts and any number of festival spots. And with good reason – this is a really really good song.
Read Gareth Hugh Evans’ review of Vance Joy’s Splendour in the Grass appearance here

6. The Milk Carton Kids – “Honey, Honey”
When I saw The Milk Carton Kids earlier this year I would have to say it was the funniest show I’ve ever been to. In contrast to their sweet, harmonic folk songs that have drawn them comparisons to Simon and Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers, The Milk Carton Kids’ between song banter is some of the driest, rolling-in-the-aisles funny stuff you’ll ever hear. It also helps that they write songs like this.
Read Thom Owen Miles’ Review of The Ash & Clay from The Milk Carton Kids here

7. Emma Davis – “Stand Tall”
I love this song so much. A great song by itself – that chorus is something else – it’s heightened buy the driving percussion and understated harmonies. This song draws you in and wraps you up. Thank you for making music Emma Davis – the world’s a better place for it.
Read details about Emma Davis’ “Stand Tall” video here

8. Tolka – “Dr. Gilbert’s”
I’ve been waiting for a trad band to come along and take my breath away this year, and lo and behold along comes Tolka. These guys are making Celtic music exciting again – and they’re so tight you could bounce a tenor banjo off their arrangments. Lovely stuff.
Read Bill Quinn’s interview with Tolka here

9. Sam Amidon – “As I Roved Out”
No one reinterprets traditional music like Sam Amidon. He deconstructs these songs and builds them up into something new and very very special. This track in particular will astound you – and those drums? I love those drums!
Read Gareth Hugh Evans’ interview with Sam Amidon here

10. Lachlan Bryan feat. Kasey Chambers – “Whistle and Waltz”
This clip made it’s appearance about a third of the way through the year, well after the album that it’s from, Shadow of the Gun, was released and just before Lachlan Bryan started promoting his new album Black Coffee. I love the accordion on this and Kasey Chambers’ backing vocals are superb. But it’s the chorus that makes “Whistle and Waltz” – so simple yet so perfect.
Read details of the new Lachlan Bryan album Black Coffee here

11. Laura Marling – “Master Hunter”
This is one of the first tracks that Laura Marling revealed from her 2013 album Once I Was An Eagle – taking all of the power and sweetness of her previous work and channeling it through a Dylan-esque prisim full of snarling, rhythmic, free-flowing melodies and Bo Diddley beats. She’s one of the most prolific artists we cover and everything Laura Marling produces is better than what comes before.
Read Timber and Steel’s combined review of Laura Marling’s Once I Was An Eagle here

12. Bear’s Den – “Isaac”
Finally Bear’s Den fulfilled they’re promise in 2013, releasing two outstanding EPs – Agape and Within/Without and shining a spotlight on the incredible talents of Andrew Davie, Kev Jones and Joey Haynes. It’s about time boys – keep it up!
Read Gareth Hugh Evans’ interview with Bear’s Den here

13. Rosie Catalano feat. Jack Carty – “Hearts”
Rosie Catalano sent me the unmastered versions of the tracks on her Dreams Are Just Movies EP and even in their raw form I knew this song was a standout. I love the plucked strings in the the verses, the subtle percussion and Jack Carty leaving his falsetto at the door for some pitch perfect backing vocals.
Read details of Rosie Catalano’s EP Dreams Are Just Movies here

14. Fanny Lumsden & The Thrillseekers – “Sea Elephant School”
I think this is Fanny Lumsden’s tightest track to date – dynamic, driving and definitely toe-tap worthy. I’ve liked Lumsden’s music for a while but with “Sea Elephant School” I feel like she’s really finding her stride as a songwriter and a storyteller.
Read Gareth Hugh Evans’ interview with Fanny Lumsden here

15. Boy Outside – “River Runs To The Sea”
The moment Boy Outside added a rhythm section to his dark, alt-country sound something just clicked for me. He writes songs that cry out for a band (even one as restrained as in this track) and the result is beautiful. The video for “River Runs To The Sea”, shot in Western NSW, just adds a depth to the track – really lovely music.
Read Gareth Hugh Evans’ interview with Boy Outside here

16. Volcano Choir – “Byegone”
I love the way everyone pretended they already knew that Justin Vernon had a side project when Volcano Choir released their Reprave album this year. This track snuck up on me thanks to a couple of overseas blogs but I’m so glad it stuck. There’s something epic about this track and Vernon’s voice is in all it’s Phil-Collins-double-tracked-vocals glory here.
Read more details about Volcano Choir here

17. Mustered Courage – “Cruel Alibis”
When Mustered Courage banjo player and lead singer Nick Keeling handed me an unofficial copy of the band’s album Powerlines at the start of the year I lapped it up. These guys are one of the best bands in the country and their latest long player is testament to the amazing music they’re producing. “Cruel Alibis” is a definite highlight from Powerlines and while I’ve seen them perform it live a hundred times or more I can’t help but get excited every time the full band bursts into the second verse.
Read Gareth Hugh Evans interview with Mustered Courage here

18. Arbori – “Polar Bear Swim”
I’m so glad Arbori just completed a successful crowdfunding campaign to put together a new EP next year. The speed at which these guys release music is frustrating (sorry Steve!) – but mainly because it’s so stunning. “Polar Bear Swim” is another Arbori and the contemporary dance heavy video is simply beautiful.
Read about the debut of Arbori’s “Polar Bear Swim” here

19. Boy & Bear – “Southern Sun”
I think a few people expected Boy & Bear to morph into the Australian Mumford and Sons for their 2013 sophomore album Harlequin Dream, but instead they’ve chosen to channel 70s Laurel Canyon, and to great effect. “Southern Sun” was the first single from the album and it still sounds up as one of the best.
Read details of Boy & Bear’s new album Harlequin Dream here

20. Castlecomer – “Forrest”
I think I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – Castlecomer’s “Forrest” reminds me so much of “Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy. Not that that’s a bad think – I love “Life in a Northern Town” by The Dream Academy. I love the African sounds to “Forrest” and just how uplifted it makes me feel.
Read details of the Castlecomer EP Lone Survivour here

21. Sam Buckingham – “Follow You”
In “Follow You” Sam Buckingham has crafted a near-perfect indie-pop song. The melody is catchy, the lyrics are simple yet touching and it’s just so damn catchy. There are so many folky singer-songwriters trying to achieve what Sam Buckingham seems to have effortlessly produced here.
Read Gareth Hugh Evans’ interview with Sam Buckingham here

22. Marcus Mumford & Oscar Isaac – “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)”
I can’t tell you how excited I am by the upcoming Cohen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis, set during the 1960s New York folk revival. The film will be in our theatres next year but the soundtrack – featuring the film’s actors Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan along with artists like Marcus Mumford & Oscar Isaac and Punch Brothers – is out now and is very very good. This version of “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” is probably my favourite track on the soundtrack.
Read details of the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack here

23. Gregory Alan Isakov – “Saint Valentine”
My love affair with Gregory Alan Isakov was solidified this year with the release of his superlative new album The Weatherman. “Saint Valentine” was the first single from the album and has managed to earworm its way into my life. A stunning song from a stunning songwriter.
Read details of Gregory Alan Isakov’s album The Weatherman here

24. The Little Stevies – “Diamonds For Your Tea”
Having gone through a bunch of changes in the lead up to their new album Diamonds For Your Tea and the result is their most mature album to date. The album’s title track and first single perfectly encapsulates the type of music The Little Stevies are producing at the moment and once again demonstrates their beautiful harmonies.
Read Gareth Hugh Evans’ interview with The Little Stevies here

25. Jack Carty & Casual Psychotic – “What Does Your Heart Say?”
When Jack Carty told me his 2013 collaboration with producer Casual Psychotic was probably not going to be folky enough for me I took him at face value and ignored the Predictable Crisis of Modern Life EP longer than I should of. When I finally got around to listening to it I realised what I was missing – and Carty’s trademark storytelling style is all over it. The EP’s single, “What Does Your Heart Say?”, is one of the folkier tracks and is the perfect way to finish this list.
Watch Jack Carty live at The Front in Canberra here

Details of the Inside Llewyn Davis Soundtrack Revealed

Inside Llewyn Davis

Almost as exciting as the prospect of the upcoming Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis, which focuses on the 60s folk scene in New York is the prospect of its accompanying soundtrack produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett (O Brother Where Art Thou?).

As well as featuring songs from the film’s stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake the soundtrack also features contributions from the likes of Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons), Bob Dylan and Punch Brothers.

The soundtrack is due for release on the 17th September and has an exciting mix of traditional songs, folk classics and originals – check out the track listing below:

Inside Llewyn Davis
1. “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” (Traditional; Arranged by Oscar Isaac & T Bone Burnett) – Oscar Isaac
2. “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” (Traditional; Arranged by Marcus Mumford, Oscar Isaac and T Bone Burnett) – Marcus Mumford and Oscar Isaac
3. “The Last Thing on My Mind” (Tom Paxton) – Stark Sands with Punch Brothers
4.“Five Hundred Miles” (Hedy West) – Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and Stark Sands
5.“Please Mr. Kennedy” (Ed Rush, George Cromarty, T Bone Burnett, Justin Timberlake, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen) – Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver
6. “Green, Green Rocky Road” (Len Chandler and Robert Kaufman) – Oscar Isaac
7. “The Death of Queen Jane” (Traditional; Arranged by Oscar Isaac and T Bone Burnett) – Oscar Isaac
8. “The Roving Gambler” (Traditional) – John Cohen with The Down Hill Strugglers
9.“The Shoals of Herring” (Ewan MacColl) – Oscar Isaac with Punch Brothers
10.“The Auld Triangle” (Brendan Behan) – Chris Thile, Chris Eldridge, Marcus Mumford, Justin Timberlake and Gabe Witcher
11.“The Storms Are on the Ocean” (A.P. Carter) – Nancy Blake
12.“Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song) (Traditional; Arranged by Oscar Isaac) – Oscar Isaac
13.”Farewell” (Bob Dylan) – Bob Dylan
14.“Green, Green Rocky Road” (Len Chandler and Robert Kaufman) – Dave Van Ronk

Review: Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse


Image Courtesy of Frightened Rabbit

I hesitated before listening to this album because I loved The Midnight Organ Fight. It was awarded embarrassingly frequent rotation in my car, home and iPod. Gradually, I learned all the lyrics and screamed them at full volume down the highway on my way to work. That album will always take me back to university; the 19-year-old me pacing awkwardly through the library, all frizzy hair and baggy pants.

But a friend finally coaxed me to give Pedestrian Verse a listen. One Friday at 4am, I put the headphones on to hear the first line: “I’m that dickhead in the kitchen giving wine to your best girl’s glass”. Immediately, I was back. After several years of loving this band and loving this album, I’ve realise one thing to be completely true:

Frightened Rabbit are better than Mumford and Sons.

I’m not here to rock the boat.

I’m not here to make disapproving faces or point fingers.

It’s just the truth and I can give you three major reasons as to why.

1. Where Frightened Rabbit demonstrate their versatility as musicians in terms of song structure, mood and genre; Mumford and Sons don a uniform folk routine. As nice as a rambling banjo line can be, this device is too often a prominent feature in every song. In a January interview with Spin, Hutchinson disapproved of Babel’s attempt at “shovelling the same shit” from the previous Mumford and Sons album.

2. No one curses like a Scotsman. It’s a simple fact.
When I hear Marcus admitting he “really fucked it up this time” I can’t help comparing it to Scott’s, “after months of grieving, fuck the grief I’m leaving.” Suddenly, Marcus looks like a big wuss who lacks emotional charge and creativity with his apathetic use of a clichéd phrase. Pedestrian Verse drops enough bastards, dickheads and shits to satisfy a Monday morning assembly of angst-ridden teenagers.

3. Marcus Mumford has got the basics but Scott Hutchinson is a born storyteller. In “Snow Still Melting”, Frightened Rabbit use the metaphor of a freezing cold night to describe a previous relationship: “We are ruled by a governing frost. It melts beneath alcohol briefly and then bites back.” Whereas, the opening lines of “I Will Wait” feature a simile that doesn’t make sense: “I came home like a stone and I fell heavy into your arms.” How do you come home like a stone, Marcus? Does someone throw you through the window or do you simply wait in the garden bed for someone to find you?

Honestly, I’m just frustrated that Pedestrian Verse, with all its darkness, guts and self-deprecation, isn’t getting the attention it rightfully deserves.

But enough with the comparisons; let’s do this.

The opening song, “Acts of Man” introduces the album with a simple piano riff, understated vocals and violin; building steadily with a tom-heavy drum section and robust electric guitar. Vocal harmonies asserting, “Not here, not here,” hint at an impending explosion. Hutchinson’s renowned cynicism makes a grand entrance when he suggests, “let’s promise every girl we marry we’ll always love them when we probably won’t.” This song is anything but predictable. At the 3:30 mark, the band launches into an indie-electronic style jam with heavy reverb on the lead guitar. As such, Frightened Rabbit give their audience a taste of everything that’s on the menu this evening.

Somewhat abruptly, the Scottish five-piece breaks into an upbeat tune called “Backyard Skulls”. Amid pop sensibilities and an unexpectedly 80s synth line, there is detailed imagery about buried secrets. Lyrically, Hutchinson plays with the extended metaphor of having skeletons in one’s closet, showcasing the band’s inescapable folk foundations. In fact, “The Woodpile” is distinctly folk in sound and style. With an addictively explosive chorus, this song is carefully constructed to produce emotional intensity with a catchy melody, flourishing tambourine and subtle orchestral elements that would threaten to distort the track on a set of poor speakers. The guitars swell into an electrifying solo and chorus refrain. Consistently addressing the listener, the undeniably Scottish front man howls: “We’ll speak in our secret tongues,” which soon dissipates in to the schoolboy-esque whistling on “Late March, Death March”, a catchy and anthemic chant about a drunken argument.

There’s a fair portion of dark subject matter on this record too. “State Hospital” displays lyrical density as Hutchinson describes the inner turmoil of a young girl. Images of death, sickness and social isolation are confronting as we hear the album’s title: “A slipped disc in the spine of community / A bloody curse word made pedestrian verse.” This song is intriguing in its simplicity and the raucous chanting in the outro of, “All is not lost,” reassures the song’s protagonist of a light at the end of the tunnel. Hutchinson describes this song as his “first foray into writing about someone else’s life and constructing a character other than a version of myself.”

Similarly, “Nitrous Gas” begins with stripped-back guitar and a display of the band’s newfound experimentation with minor keys. The backing vocals are haunting and a cluster of cymbal crashes tug at the listener’s heartstrings. Hutchinson’s whisky-soaked croaking about artificially induced laughter is witty and self-destructive, sharing similarities (for me at least) with his temperament in “Poke” from their previous album.

My personal favourite is a track entitled “The Oil Slick”, which leaves a lasting impression on the standard edition of the album. A tight, upbeat combination of electric guitar and sliding bass line is met with a resigned attitude towards future romance. Hutchinson continues to find fault in himself, as his sense of humour ranges from the self-critical, “Only an idiot would swim through the shit I write,” and the hilarious, “I’ve got a voice like a gutter in a toxic storm.” This song is undoubtedly catchy. Midway through, “The Oil Slick” falls into a deep repetitive drum beat, generating force with the wailing positivity of “Still got hope so I’ll think we’ll be fine in these disastrous times” and a horn section reminiscent of the beloved Neutral Milk Hotel. Slowly, the drums and electric guitar dissipate into a flock of chattering birds and the rustle of tree branches.

Overall, this album showcases an evolution of Frightened Rabbit’s music structurally, stylistically and lyrically. The tracks range from anthemic synth beats to delicate folk lamentations, all conducted by the biting and reckless persona of their tenacious bearded front man.

The band considers Pedestrian Verse to be their best work to date. So sink your teeth into some rich and seasoned Scottish folk-rock, because Babel’s only going to leave you hungry.

Frightened Rabbit Tour Dates:

27th April to 11th May – Groovin’ the Moo
Thursday 2nd May – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD
Wednesday 8th May – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Thursday 9th May – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

Review Panel: Laura Marling, The Metro Theatre, Sydney

Laura Marling
Image Courtesy of marigae2008

Laura Marling supported by Johnny Flynn (solo) and Boy & Bear
2nd August, Metro Theatre
Sydney

We’re going to try something a little different here at Timber and Steel. Given that three of our very talented writers were at Laura Marling’s Sydney Metro show this week and we were at a stalemate as to who would write the review we thought we’d share with you all three impressions of the show in our first ever “Panel Review”. And if it’s successful then maybe it’s something we’ll try again in future. So without further ado we give you our reviewers Evan Hughes, KTBell and Mackajay.

Evan: To say I’d been looking forward to this gig for sometime would be an understatement. Not only was it another chance to catch Laura Marling this year (I missed her Sydney Festival shows in January) but it was also going to be the first time seeing the wonderful Johnny Flynn, an artist I’d been avidly listening to since I downloaded A Larum early last year. Couple with this an appearance by the always solid Boy & Bear and this was going to be an absolutely cracking gig.

KTBell: Having only discovered Laura Marling in the last few months, and with Evan and Mackajay waxing lyrical about this girl, I bought a ticket without a second thought. At that time I may have listened to her album once, had never heard of Johnny Flynn and had heard one or two Boy & Bear tunes. Boy do I trust the opinions of these two!

Mackajay: Last time I saw Laura Marling was at the Factory Theatre two years ago, supported by an incredible, and largely unknown at the time, Marcus Mumford.  It was a lively, honest and unforgettable show and I was incredibly keen to hear some of Laura’s new material performed live.  I was however perhaps even a tad more excited to see Johnny Flynn for the first time on these shores (for full disclosure I am un-apologetically a huge fan of his recorded music)

Evan: We walked into the Metro just as Johnny Flynn was taking the stage for his first song. Sans his band The Sussex Wit, Flynn reminded me of a young Dylan, armed with just an acoustic guitar and that ageless voice. The crowd was surprisingly large and respectful to what was essentially an unknown, third billed support act responding to each song with whoops of encouragement and pretty meaty applause. Flynn made his way through a good cross section of his back catalogue including “The Wrote and the Writ”, “Been Listening” and “Tunnels”, stumbling once on his words (due to jet lag). Finishing with the wonderful “Tickle Me Pink” this reviewer at least wishes there’d been more than half an hour to his set (or even a headline gig elsewhere) although I’m glad I got the chance to see him.

KTBell: Let me start by saying – I won’t be surprised if Johnny Flynn becomes one of those artists who regularly has girls scream out “Marry Me, Johnny!” The epitome of the dashing young gent, complete with the charming demeanour and English accent, if looks alone are not enough, the sheer beauty of his voice will take you away to another world. For someone who claimed to be jet-lagged and still delivers such clear, strong vocals, I’d love to see him when he’s not jet-lagged! His style and performance lulled me, and the audience seemed also to appreciate his overwhelming talent. 

Mackajay: Johnny Flynn started his set with the wonderful “Lost and Found” from his new album Been Listening.  His handling of his trademark resonator guitar was accomplished as he wound his way through a very eclectic set-list that seemed to be formulated right there on the spot as he decided what to play. Vocally there was little to hint at the jet-lag he professed to have, although stumbling mid-song was a dead giveaway, and for another artist may not have been forgivable.  The larger-than-expected crowd was on Johnny’s side however, and were vocal, and seemed to know Johnny’s older music well – one girl next to me yelling ‘play “Leftovers”!’ at every opportunity.  Like Evan, I loved “Tickle Me Pick” but was less impressed by “Been listening”, which, shorn of it’s meaty guitar solo, didn’t seem to carry as much weight.  I really hope we can one day see a full Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit headline show here on our shores soon.

Evan: There’s a reason why Australia’s hardest working band Boy & Bear continually get tapped to play these support slots. They seem to treat every show as if it’s their own without ever coming across as arrogant. Being a five piece Boy & Bear’s sound is pretty big and definitely well suited to a venue the size of The Metro. The full audience was treated to every track off With Emperor Antarctica along with a couple of new songs (one of which lead singer Dave Hosking described as the band “going country”) and their now famous cover of Bon Iver’s “Flume”. It’s only a matter of time before Boy & Bear start headline venues like The Metro judging by the reaction of the audience – yet another solid effort by the guys.

KTBell: Having only seen Boy & Bear once before at a festival, in a cavernous hall, the Metro seemed a venue far more suited to their style. They are so at home on the stage and I, along with the rest of the audience I assume, felt so comfortable and intimate with them. In this setting, their performance truely enveloped the crowd, many were swept away with their performance, giggling along with their on stage banter and jokes about the tea towel shirt on Hosking and stomping, clapping and tapping along with so many now favourite songs. Hosking admitted that they had had a 6 week holiday recently, 2 weeks of which was set aside for them to write new songs since they were getting in trouble for having such short sets – a true sign that their popularity is growing in leaps and bounds. Their new stuff was as enjoyable as their old stuff, and we’ll even forgive them their country song, but the song that started it all, “The Storm”, was still my favourite and a real crowd pleaser. At the end of their set, I had to comment to our posse, that I just love that they are 5 men, playing instruments and still creating stunning harmonies. And none of these boy-band style harmonies, real delicate, subtle, closely aligned harmonies ever prevalent in older style and traditional folk music.

Mackajay: I’ve lost track of the times I’ve seen Boy and Bear, and their show is always rock solid.  Possibly it’s because I always seem to see them in support slots but I often feel that their songs tend to blend from one to another a little too easily, mainly because the instrumentation between the tracks  and the (excellent) harmonies tend to remain in a similar tonal range. I think it is no co-incidence that the tracks of theirs that tend to get the most radio play are the songs with the most dynamic changes, and these certainly stood out last night, and I would be lying if I (and the crowd) didn’t enjoy their performance.

Evan: The last time I saw Laura Marling she was a timid teenager playing to a curious post-Splendour crowd at Sydney’s Factory Theatre. Two years later and Marling has evolved into a confident, sweet performer who obviously has a genuine love for what she does and for her audience. Unlike last time Marling was joined by a full band including, for the nu-folk music nerds among us, Pete Roe on keyboards, electric guitar and harmonium and Marcus Mumford on mandolin and backing vocals (which is unlikely to be repeated every night of the tour given the competing schedules between Marling and Mumford and Sons).

KTBell: I may be committing blog-suicide here, but the only person I recognised walking out on to that stage was Marcus Mumford. My only image of Laura Marling was the cover of I Speak Because I Can, so forgive me for assuming she was a brunette. Once she opened her mouth, well, I was taken with her.

Mackajay: I think my good friends were a little afraid of what I might do if Laura played “Alas I Cannot Swim” considering how much I enjoyed it last time they played , When thinking back to the super-fast rendition that Marcus and Laura played at the Factory, I still get a warm glow.

Evan: Marling began her set with one of the best songs of the year “Devil’s Spoke” and then it only got better. Plundering most of her new album I Speak Because I Can as well as favourites from Alas I Cannot Swim Marling had the audience hanging on her every word and singing along with every chorus. Definite highlights throughout the night included “Ghosts” and “My Manic and I”.

KTBell: Laura took a lovely approach of introducing her band staggered between songs. She declared that it was to give her band members a taste of how awkward she feels when left to the microphone between songs. Amusingly, her band weren’t very talkative.  Laura’s self confessed awkwardness  actually translated as more of a laid back, latent humour in tune with her fans. She had the entire audience in fits of giggles throughout the evening, so we can only hope she no longer feels awkward and embraces the wonderful warm personality she conveys both in song and in the small talk. I also particularly enjoyed watching Pete Roe switch between instruments, and particularly loved the smooth flowing touch he took to the harmonium and hearing the resulting layer it adds to each song.

Mackajay: I was delighted to see Pete Roe, whom I recognised from his brief performance at the first Communion gig in Sydney, and also to see Marcus Mumford.  The fact that this group of artists want to play together at every opportunity they possibly can, even when they have their own hectic performance schedules gives each performance the feeling of a cosy jam-session.

Evan: The middle solo set to Marling’s performance saw her debut two new songs (maybe for her rumoured upcoming album?) as well as showcasing her unique voice backed solely by her acoustic guitar. After asking the audience to whistle the fiddle solo for “Night Terror” Marling added yet another string to her musical bow by out-whistling the 1,500 strong capacity crowd both through pursed lips and gritted teeth, gaining her a rapturous applause.

KTBell: You know a performer is good when the entire audience is silent. You know a performer is amazing when the audience stops even taking photos, to listen. Laura had us all transfixed and well in to her solo songs, I really noticed how still and focused the crowd was. We were hanging on her every word. Her new works were haunting and endearing at the same time and I look forward to listening to them again. One of the wonderful things I really connected with during her performance, which I hadn’t so strongly identified on the album (mixed playlists and ‘shuffle’ will do that) is her storytelling ability. Such strong narratives through many of her tunes are appreciated so much more live, with her personal accents and additions, stories and small talk around her set. It was also lovely to see how chuffed she was with us as an audience, as we sang along word for word, clear as a bell, she couldn’t help the wry grin spread across her face.

Mackajay: I was most pleasantly surprised by “Made by Maid”, whilst I like the album version, Laura’s brief intro of the backstory of the folk legend of The Babe in the Woods gave the story of the song a context that it hadn’t had for me before. In fact the acoustic songs that Laura played, including some new material, was confident and spellbinding.  There were many “pin-drop” moments where the audience were enthralled to the point of almost not breathing, before erupting into tumultuous applause at the end of each song, and some good-old-fashioned banter with the crowd – which Laura seemed to really enjoy.  (If anyone can remember the name of that second new song that Laura played and can help me out with the title, I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for a recorded version, it was a cracker!)

Evan: Bizarrely when Marling’s band returned to the stage after her solo set Pete Roe had shaved off his 2 year old beard. The stunt was clearly not planned which set the audience off in a fit of laughter and threw Marling as she attempted to play the opening chords of her next song. She quickly regained her composure (although the quizzical looks towards Roe continued for the rest of the night) and finished out her performance just as she had begun – full of confidence and grace. Explaining to the audience that she didn’t do encores (“unless we turn into AC/DC”) Marling finished up with a boisterous version of “Alas I Cannot Swim” leaving the audience wanting more but ultimately thrilled with what was surely one of the best gigs of the year.

KTBell: Having admitted that she really likes playing to an Australian audience, along with the explanation of not playing encores (she was amused that the audience clapped that announcement and that that was the first time it had ever got a clap), it was testament to her performance and rapport with us, that between her second last and final songs, the crowd erupted into frenzied applause, whistling and screaming, demanding an encore. She smiled, a little perplexed and quite humbly thanked us, then proceeded to show her real thanks with an incredible and rousing finale. At the end of each set, I always wanted more but in a good way, a true sign of an incredible and engaging gig.

Mackajay: Laura: “Um did anyone else notice that Pete Roe suddenly hasn’t got a beard”
Pete: “It was the source of my power…. I had to sort it out”
Laura: (laughs) “It’s really rather a shame as I have to play a very serious song now”
As they launch into “I speak because I can” I’m left wondering what the heck happened backstage…

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