16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Who said folk was a thing of the past?! One of the finest albums all year, 22 Oct. 2007
This really took me by surprise. It's not often a new folk album catches my attention, in fact, new folk albums don't tend to catch my attention at all, being more into the Hip-Hop and electronic side of things. I tracked this record down though after hearing the epic "Cold Hailey Rainy Night", and was not disappointed.
The idea behind the album is to remix and update traditional English folk songs of the past for a broader audience. The result is surprisingly good, as the songs sound entirely fresh and relevant while still retaining their historic edge. It's a brave idea that's bound to stir up thoughts among some of the hardened folk aficionado's. But like it or not, you've really got to admire the ambition in it.
Remember, people have become so used to only hearing old folk songs sung by an old man with a gray beard, strumming away plainly on an acoustic guitar somewhere in the corner of a pub. There's nothing strictly wrong with that, but it's become a dead-end cliche. This album challenges that, and says that folk music can still be interesting, important and taken seriously if musicians dare to approach it in a unique way. "Tam Lyn" for example, features poet Benjamin Zephaniah taking the old famous tale out of the forest and into the concrete jungle, amid paranoid urban soundscapes and dubstep-style beats. "Cold Hailey Rainy Night", probably my favourite song on the whole album, turns an old song about a soldier seeking somewhere to lay his head on a stormy night, into something completely epic and spine-tingling, with thunderous dhol-drums and sitars used with brilliant effect, plus some vocal performances of a lifetime by Chris Wood and Eliza Carthy. "Death and the Maiden" offers a quirky, indie take on things, while "Hard Times Of Old England" features the legendary Billy Bragg putting some perspective on the struggle that's faced rural England throughout time, and still continues to today, only amid a different form.
With all the talk of English identity that surrounds this album though, it would be a mistake to confuse it for some kind of political album, or just as a daring musical experiment, because it's really much more than that. It's about the songs, and great songs they are. Sung throughout the ages, adopted or remixed by each passing generation, they would be a crime to forget. Hearing them reworked and produced so well offers a new chance to appreciate them even more. Let's hope that continues well into the future.