Not exactly the folky album you might expect from a band that features Paul Downes among its ranks, but the Joyce Gang give us a rootsy rocky brand of contemporary folk with a funky driving edge that is immensely attractive in its own way. The other members of the band - John Redmond and David McKeown - contribute several instruments, vocals and songs apiece, and the overall group sound is an unusual blend, with David's saxes and/or clarinet well to the fore in the texture for much of the time. One instrumental third track starts plangently with a slow air ("White Is The True Colour"), soon to be pursued by a frenetic "Hand In The Bush", while a reel belted out on sax is turned to great advantage on David's own "Sailing". The other instrumental track has a great build from a sly, fruity alto sax beginning ("Paddy Goes To Holyland"). An episode from John's Anglo-Irish background is the avowed inspiration for the more intense "Holy Woeful Mound". Another highlight is the band's fine version of Mike Lennon's visionary protest song "Rose In The Thorn". There's more than a hint of the good-time groove of the Bushburys or Lindisfarne on tracks like "Walking Song" and "Closer", but the band's treatment of that latter fine Jonathon Asprey song is joyously individual. Like the rest of the album, it's vibrantly played, refreshingly different, and free from those hoary old folk-roots-rock clichés. This is the band's fourth album, apparently; time to catch up on the other three, methinks!
Rock 'n' Reel
A welcome release if only to hear again one-time Brighton resident Paul Downes in action, but that's not the only reason to enjoy this rather varied album. I suppose it's best described as folk rock, but there are Celtic influences in there and some lovely jazz sounds too. I really loved David McKeown's alto sax, and it's nice to see Paul giving his Keith Johns guitar a credit.
Most lead vocals apart from two by Paul, are taken by John Redmond and the whole thing comes together extremely well.
The Joyce gang is an English band who plays Anglo/Irish roots music and
uses several styles like the modern jazz. This is their fourth album
and although they are known in the British isles, their name is hardly
ever heard in Europe. I've never seen the group play live and this is
the first time I ever heard their music and I'm sorry to say that I'm
some how disappointed. Maybe it's a producers vault but the songs sound
chaotic. Already the first one called 600.00, sounds like somebody took
a saxophone and just started playing not listening what the other
musicians are doing. Also in other songs it's the sax that disturbs
most. But also without it just doesn't get interesting It are nice
tunes and great musicians but they don't manage to create a cd that
make your eyes frown. Listened and forgotten.
This is a very tight band. The opening tract "600,000" written and sing by John Redmond really "makes you "ave it". The use of saxophone as a harmony voice is stunning. Writing this, I'm halfway down the second track, "Campus Crusader" from the pen of Paul Downes, first time through. It's obvious that a great deal of thought went in to the arrangements. Having learned the songs they all decided to have a good time playing them! Next up are two tunes by David McKeown; "White Is The Colour Of My True Love's Hair" a lovely melody beautifully played on sax and accompanied by Paul on acoustic guitar, joined in the second stanza by alto sax; "The Hand In The Bush" is completely manic, electric guitars, sax and bass with driving percussion. This is riveting stuff, dynamic and enjoyable. The book lists the song titles/lyrics in no particular order; a quick search is fruitful, good pictures and quirky comments. I tell the Virgo in me to go and organise something while I listen to the rest of it! "Closer" by Jonathon Asprey, is the only track that didn't do it for me by hey, 12 out of 13 is good going. On that point, one of two of the arrangement are perhaps over complicated. Simple is always good and often better. "Somebody Else" (Downes/Redmond) is a cracker of a song. "Paddy Goes To Holyland" (McKeown) is a must for mixed race Bar Mitzvahs. "Walking Song" (Redmond/Wilson) an acerbic comment on a bad relationship. Paul's electric and acoustic playing shines throughout. I hope these guys are busy, they certainly should be. I wish I had the space to go through this album track by track, just log on and buy it! Immediately!
Folk on Tap
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