Bellowhead - Broadside
Since their triumphant performance as part of The Proms a few years ago launched them to the music community at large, Bellowhead have rather successfully swam against the tide of the horribly bland modern day folk bands that seem like a plague of late. Third album Hedonism set the bar high, becoming the biggest selling independent folk album ever in the process, and Broadside picks up where that left off with its enormously enjoyable jigs and infectious reels.
Masterful storytellers, Bellowhead are breathing new life into old traditional classic, but rather than just relying on the folk essentials, they bring in the bombast of big band theatrics – helped by the fact there are about a dozen of them – as well as an infusion of jazz, swing and rock to create this all-singing all-dancing monster of a record, but one still brimming full of that carefree and playfulness that is the hallmark of the finest folk.
The opening number 'Byker Hill' kicks the dance of in what is becoming the typical Bellowhead style as the old Northumbrian tale of coal miners and their loves gets the feet stamping and the voices raised over a sea of brass flourishes, prancing violins and meaty guitars. Personal favourite 'Old Dun Cow' is much more sedate in nature, but the brilliantly dark and doomy rendition courtesy of the spooky woodwind section is yet another fine example of the ingenuity Bellowhead can demonstrate in reinterpreting neglected oldies and making them sound so fresh and new.
Every tune on Broadside has its own unique character, and whether it's the jilted lover's angst in 'Betsy Baker' or the jolly japes of 'Thousands Or More', Bellowhead have once again produced an enthralling album that can't help but bring a smile to face and get those two left feet moving. These are songs meant for reinvention and updating, and there is no-one around who does a better job of keeping these little treasures alive.