Talking Elephant 2022
Friendly fusing their strings into a patina-coated panel that reflects the past, stalwarts of British music mythos-scene look into the future.
Nowadays, fresh proponents of folk rock seem to prefer fiery delivery to vibrant depth of the pieces they perform, and it’s a rare feat for them to explore the Stygian regions of a centuries-spun lore. However, David Carroll, an erstwhile member of SPINNING WHEEL who hasn’t publicly practiced the art for decades, sticking instead to the luthier aspect of music industry, knew better when embarking on this project and inviting longtime fellow travelers for the ride. Those kindred spirits, tethered for years to FAIRPORT CONVENTION and GRYPHON, never ceased to be excited by the possibilities of delving into tradition, especially when there’s no showcase to make out of tragedy inherent in familiar tunes, with filigree fed into songs per se rather than their perfunctory trappings. That’s why “Bold Reynold” is so compelling without ever sounding flashy, the resulting gloomy tapestry stressing the ancient wisdom of every cut on offer.
Indeed, it would take intrepid slyness and committed adventurousness, as well as a reined-in experience, to try and uncover new layers of meaning in such Sandy-Denny-patented perennials as “She Moved Through The Fair” and “Banks Of The Nile” – the former voiced by Carroll, who also plants acoustic strum and pipes, and Lucy Cooper; the latter sung solely, so crystal-clear and strong, by lady Lucy too, with sir David’s bouzouki commanding the flow of Chris Leslie’s fiddle and Dave Oberlé’s drum. But whereas the many instruments on the frisky “Gentlemen Of High Renown” in which the titular character will appear flesh out the album’s finale in a magnificently polyphonic weave of strings and reeds, the platter’s opener is a relatively recent number: “The Last Leviathan” by Andy Barnes stitches the past to the future via dipping the track’s environmentally minded lines into a cinematic net of mesmeric licks and tabla groove that Dave Pegg’s bass and Brian Gulland’s bassoons anchor to melodic bedrock. This piece contrasts the belligerent jive of “Follow Me Up To Carlow” in which the ensemble leader’s mandolin and vocals drive the infectious refrain and which may be linked on the military field to the cover of THE STRAWBS’ “The Battle”: the record’s electrically sizzling yet deceptively calm penultimate progression towards epic fantasy.
Elsewhere, the banjo which THE PROFESSIONALS’ Tom Spencer picks and Graeme Taylor’s guitar figures propel the shanty-catchy and whistle-sweetened chorus of “High Barbaree” before the grievously dynamic drone of “Poor Man’s Sorrow” reflects the resonant despondence of “Poor Murdered Woman” to outline’s the grey-haired songs’ eternal drama – the drama that has always placed them beyond the stream of temporality. Sculpting the strikingly bleak, black-and-white panorama out of these classics, David Caroll and his friends nevertheless tint its imagery with slight daubs of blood as if to emphasize how life-affirming they are – and how great is the masterful reading of them by those for whom folklore has been the way of life. Truly, “Bold Reynold” can be considered a new milestone in the genre’s existence.