Even though they put a man on the moon four years before I was born, I swear it’s the little things summoning me to a care-home for the terminally bewildered. I’m pre-empting what-they-can’t-do-these-days scenarios, but why so soon? All the years of diluting the kid’s squash, I observed they look rather stout of recent. My daughter calls it a ‘senior moment,’ pointing out, it’s double-strength squash. She was right too, says so on the bottle, in huge, unmissable letters.
In a way, it’s kinda like the highly anticipated album from The Lost Trades. Because, if in the past I’ve put them deservedly on pedestals as individuals, when they first joined together, they shimmed said pedestals closer, and nicely complimented each other’s voices. This can be heard in the three tunes which reappear from the earlier EP, Robots, Good Old Days, and Wait for my Boat; the first one being definitively Phil’s song while the latter two have the marks of Jamie. Awesome as these are, it’s the unreleased tunes which I need to draw your attention to, as they’ve balanced the pedestals atop of each other, like a daring circus act; the lines between them as individual performers are now totally absorbed, in both writing and vocals, akin to the double-strength squash, this is triple-strength!
If you’ve never known them as individual performers, you’d be forgiven for mistaking that they ever were, with these new set of songs. And with other tricks up their sleeves, The Bird, the Book & The Barrel exceeded my high expectation. Solving the conundrum of what else to write about a trio we’ve already covered so much on Devizine.
The Bird, the Book & The Barrel, released on Friday, the 4th June, can be pre-ordered, and you get two tracks in advance, if you cannot wait, which is understandable. With a rustic wood-cabin corporate identity they don’t waiver from, the essence of folk-roots of yore are embellished with modern themes, from which they project the perfect balance of vocal harmonies one could only compare to family groups. Save Simon & Garfunkel and The Drifters, who could do it, we have to think from the apt genre, of the Carter Family, to The Carpenters, and The Everly Brothers, but perhaps onto The Jacksons, for in soul their voices harmonised with similar perfection. Yes, it really works akin with the Lost Trades, I’m pleased to announce, and here more than ever.
And in this, the opening tune could be constituted as somewhat boastful about their precision, if not a simple premise of unification; only in sharing one vision will the world be ours for the taking; if you got it, flaunt it! One Voice sums up my own overall thoughts on the album, and makes for a beautiful introduction.
The second track is where the magic really starts. The fleeting romantic interlude of a fast-paced, maybe dodgy, roamer is the theme of Road of Solid Gold, which is as the road, solid and gold. An unusual composition, being the fiddle is habitually played during instrumental breaks, but here it accompanies the vocals. This violin mastery is performed by legend of folk, Peter Knight, a founding member of Steeleye Span, undoubtedly the most renowned group of the British folk revival alongside Fairport Convention, and secretly was Uncle Bulgaria of the Wombles band too! Additionally, this is where we hear the Trades really melding their voices into one, which occurs more frequently as the album progresses.
Elements combine, regardless if one takes the lead, or verses are harmonies too, it’s all a big slice of wonderful. The astute song writing weaves narrative timelessly, be it nostalgic-based such as Good Old Days, unification against the odds like Distance Brings us Closer, both where Jamie leads, and the most poignant, Kingdom Falls, a tale of the pen being mightier than the sword through the eyes of a prisoner of war.
Then there’s lighter subject matter, often where Phil leads, such as the trickling Your Winning Days, but his lead also offers one of most divergent tunes, Robots, an apprehension of automation, in which a steady guiro offers a pertinent clockwork effect.
At seven tracks in one could wonder where’s the girl power, but when Tamsin takes lead on Hope Cove, it’s been worth the wait. A heartfelt romance actualised as a geographical location isn’t an uncommon concept, but you know Tamsin handles it inimitably and spectacularly, like only the finest tunes of her solo album Gypsy Blood. Shanty theme continues with Jamie leading on Waiting for my Boat, equivalent to the sentiment of his classic solo songs, Not Going Anywhere and As Big as You, this is nothing less than sublime.
With just two tunes remaining, Silent Noise of the Mind sums my “triple-strength” notion of the progress of the Trades, fusing the vocals entirely throughout, the beauty of it embraces the air, drifting your mind like a feather in a gentle zephyr. Tree-hugging Oaks light-heartedly polishes the journey off wonderfully, with a ukulele exhaling a Hawaiian ambiance and a cheery whistle, it leaves you knowing you’ve arrived somewhere where you wouldn’t mind travelling to time and time again.
But I’d wager you knew I’d only have good things to say about The Bird, the Book & The Barrel, therefore I implore your faith in my honesty, it’s as amazing as I say, and a little chipping more.
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