The current sound of folk music no doubt extends beyond these two releases but for now both Sam and the Black Seas and Fit and the Conniptions current offerings provide a snapshot of what is out there in the independent world of this eternal genre.
‘Silver’ is essentially a story so far of the fleeting career of the aptly named Sam and the Black Seas. Nine tracks in total, including four previously released singles, ensures that even the first time listener must find something likeable within the soothing melodic arrangements of this acoustic four-piece, whose twin guitars and drums are augmented by a lilting cello. Indeed with a total running time of 35 minutes this release seems tailor made for the resurgent vinyl market that must surely be the preferred format for devotees of folk music as it is for jazz buffs.
The album’s opener ‘Something Went Wrong’ sounds conspicuously more like the gentle opening track that used to remind listeners we are dealing with an album, rather than an included single. In fact the varied pace and, at times, sparse accompaniment even suggests a band not conforming to the demands of an industry that uses terms like logistics to define the requirements of record releases.
In short a confident enough debut from an outfit at ease with their own worth and hopefully a growing repertoire.
By contrast Fit and the Conniptions, or more specifically singer songwriter Wayne Myers who describes his music as bluesy folk rock and is the only constant in an ever changing line up, is an old hand at the game. The Old Blue Witch is the fourth album credited to Fit and the Conniptions, albeit with a three year gap separating each release.
Whilst Myers is content to plough the familiar furrow of traditional folk music, covering the standard “Joe Hill” with the lyrics partially altered to immortalise the RMT trade unionist Bob Crow and his skirmishes with the papers, much of this offering has a darker edge befitting what is at times an angry tirade against those perceived as perpetrators of human injustice.
The main target here is the “Old Blue Witch” of the title track. Before investigating the music within, the cover art clearly shows a demented Thatcher taunting the striking miners, whilst the lyrics pull no punches concurring with music fans who downloaded “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” to remind, “The old blue witch is dead”. Or until the population unite to oust the tories from power, “That old blue witch ain’t dead.”
Not that New Labour escapes unscathed with ”What Kelly Knew” questioning the facts surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly and the subsequent Hutton Enquiry with the death of Robin Cook being added to the suspicious circumstances.
Perhaps the sombre tones of the political questioning can shift this album into the realms of uneasy listening, although, Myers manages to drift back from the edges of despair, most notably on the final track “Brenda Finn” where the lady in question, presumably the role model who suffers alopecia, is serenaded to a frolicking Irish jig.