Saturday, 8 April 2017

ROVING CROWS

CD Review


Bury Me Naked


After four years without an album you need to grab your listeners’ attention back - step up Roving Crows. The title track comes at you like Santana’s Jingo Ba. You feel it coming and you are like a rabbit in the spotlight.


Loz Shaw, Paul O'Neill, Caitlin Barrett and Tim Downes-Hall
 who are The Roving Crows. Pic Graham Munn
Paul O’Neill’s gritty singing has a tinge of the weird and wonderful songs of the Sixties such as Arthur Brown.
As the sound fills out with the threat of the fiddle you find yourself captured in some strange musical ritual.

Roving Crows have crammed energy into this album and then slammed the lid shut knowing it will burst out when put under the laser.
Their hit-you-between-the-eyes style is reminiscent of early U2 tracks.

The first and title track opens with a slightly drunken orchestral warm up where the guitar pulls you into a dreamlike scenario. There are elements of Steve Knightley’s powerful and cutting singing style from O’Neill and the close to jungle rhythms are all swirled into a vortex.

New York Love Song has a much more conventional intro, with O’Neill’s tones softened but it’s not too long before the introduction of Asian sounding harmonies pop up in the background followed by the percussion of Tim Downes-Hall to take a thumping turn of direction.

The Afro-Calypso sound which brings in the harmonised singing of O’Neill and Caitlin Barrett pushes your rhythm button straight away. Barrett’s fiddle inserts break into proceedings nicely without letting the listener off the hook. Towards the end, most of the instruments back off leaving just the percussion pumping behind the two singers.

Barrett adopts a country style for the ballad Riverside but the bongos let you know this is not good ‘ol country. With ease she shifts her voice from a gentle crystal clear sound to a style which has a much sassier folk-rock edge.

Paul O'Neill and Caitlin Barrett.
Pic Graham Munn
It’s her bluegrass fiddle playing which launches the triplet Fire Sky/Farewell to Chernobyl/Tiger’s Eye. The tune quickly morphs into a throbbing sound which wouldn’t be out of place as the sound track to a Mission Impossible film.

Barrett uses her fiddle to put the handbrake on the tempo and then take over the reins with her rasping strings.

In complete contrast the ticking of a clock heralds O’Neill’s voice for If I Had To Choose. From there it seems like they are trying to decide in which direction to take the song, speeding up the tempo then slowing it down as if to keep the lead singer on his toes.

It’s a reggae-folk beat which brings in Passing on the Love and, as you would expect by now, it gets broken up by a crazy almost punk-folk rhythm created by Barrett’s fiddle and Loz Shaw’s strumming bass.

Again there is a cavernous contrast as The Last Breath comes over as a Celtic lament. Barrett’s synthesised fiddle is loaded with emotion. O’Neill talking over the melody comes across as a little clichéd which is a shame because the message, which is undoubtedly sincere, of not taking this planet of ours for granted is a relevant and important one

Revolution is Now opens with a mystical/ethnic beat which is reminiscent of the Kodo drummers. Letting their rock side come to the fore, O’Neill adopts an in-your-face singing style which lies somewhere between that of Show of Hands and The Levellers as it goes into a full metal rant which leaves any semblance of folk behind.

The new album
As if to give the listener a breather, the band adopts a Pink Floyd style for Glory Bound. There is that feel of O’Neill’s words being lost in the sea of sound created by the band which borders on a musical representation of madness.
Barrett’s fiddle and Shaw’s percussion throw in another strand to complete the disorientation on this mammoth track.

The finale, Ride On, is a staple of legend Christy Moore so to hear a completely different version to the emotion-packed offering of the Kildare balladeer is both refreshing and disturbing.
Barrett’s sharp tones give the song a real edge and the sea-like backing sounds from Shaw on percussion provide it with a real landscape for your mind to get hold of.

The Roving Crows are a branch of the family folk tree planted by mould breakers Fairport Convention. This album is bursting with energy and is so crammed with sound you couldn’t shoehorn in a gnat’s eyelash if you tried. They use the whole gamut of music their talents can create, which is no mean feat and makes for a fascinating album.

Bury Me Naked is out now and the band will be officially launching the album on their home turf Gloucester on April 8 where you can see them live at Gloucester Guildhall, 23 Eastgate Street, Gloucester. GL1 1NS. Doors open 7.30pm and show starts 8pm. There is confusing information over the tickets which are priced at £13.20 but listed as not available.
On April 14 you can catch their act at The Old Ship, Main Street, Lowdham, Nottingham. NG14 7BE. No further information is available. The following night, April 15, you can see them at Colchester Arts Centre, Church Street, Colchester, Essex. CO1 1NF. Doors open 7.30pm and tickets are £10 or £8 with concessions.
Then on April 22 they play The Sun Inn, 49 Regent Street, Llangollen, Denbighshire. LL20 8HN. Doors open 7.30pm and show starts 8pm. Tickets are £6.60 including fees. From there on April 28 it's off to The Beeches, Isleham, 32 Mill St, Isleham, Ely. CB7 5RY. Doors open 7.30pm and tickets are £10. You can also call 01638 780097 or email louise@thebeechesisleham.co.uk. Support is from Tim Brown Duo.
On April 29 they will perform at Garboldisham Village Hall, Church Rd, Garboldisham, Diss, Norfolk. IP22 2SE. Doors open 7.30pm and show starts 8pm. Tickets are £12 or £11 with concessions.
They finish the month with an afternoon gig on April 30 at Eastnor Chilli Festival, Eastnor Castle, Eastnor, Ledbury. HR8 1RL. The festival, which runs over the weekend, opens from 11am on the Saturday and from 11.45am on the Sunday. Tickets are available on this link.