It is hard not to be transported to a bygone era when savoring the new EP from Lancashire Lads The Lads are: Jolli Holli on vocals, guitar, bass and keyboard, Andy on drums, Richard on strings, Steve on brass, Alan in West Orange Studios, perfecting Production, and occasional vocal harmonies, as credited in the band bio.
Most of these four tracks easily recall the British folk movement of the 70s where the likes of Pentangle, Fairport Convention, The Strawbs (and also the folkier elements of the prog rock bands like Yes, Jethro Tull and Genesis) made incandescent records that seem to have a minimal influence on the majority of rock music making outfits in 2013. Meaning that Lancashire Lads take the huge risk of being ignored altogether in the scheme of things. However, presumably for Lancashire Lads it’s more about being true to their musical dreams rather than fame and fortune. These serious-minded musicians should be applauded for sticking to their guns and producing music that will test of time, where melodies, arrangements and instrumentations bear close inspection and repeated listenings to yield significant rewards.
Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
“History” opens with a gorgeous bright guitar figure with piano accompaniment, a graceful verse which unexpectedly explodes into a trumpet-led chorus with no small amount of introspection - “Lovin’ don’t come to water/Lovin’ don’t come for free/Lovin’ don’t conform to your modern life/Lovin' is history”. The interplay between the verse and chorus sustains the tension and release balance throughout the song. The soaring, sweeping orchestral touches bring romance to the table even as Holli’s swaggering vocals provides panache. A dynamic start!
The fiddle takes centre stage on the intro of “The Rain” as the rustic ambience threatens to pull the listener into a deep reverie of a gentler time. It’s pure country music, but Irish country rather than hillbilly as Holli sings & weaves a charming tale of a not so sunny Emerald expedition, swinging clubs and pedaling pubs. It’s earthy, it’s exotic, it’s Celtic fun in inclement weather translated into a neo-psych-folk ditty. Memorable!
“PortPatrick” ups the tempo finally after two placid tracks with yet another Irish music reference but this time, it’s modern i.e. U2. And thus the introductory guitar riffs echoes the Edge’s trademark sound. This is never clearer than in the fretwork during the instrumental bridge, eschewing classic rock solos in favor for atmospheric feels instead. In other words, it’s all rather 80s post-punk as The Waterboys and The Comsat Angels are also referenced as Holli gives the requisite vocal performance to make the process complete. “PortPartrick” is a definite highlight of this impressive EP and it is an invigorating experience from start to finish.
Perhaps Lancashire Lads save the best for last with “Today is the Day” Dubbed a “euphoric celebration of life. Brassy, bold, happening”, the song is an exhortation to live in the moment - “Today is the Day/Now is the time/Everyone comes together/Everyone comes aligned” - a sentiment that needs to be embraced more and more with modern life becoming increasingly uncertain. Tastefully communicated despite the danger of a song filled with platitudes to come across as trite, thus, there is a sense of urgency whilst resisting the temptation to hector and preach, and so the plea becomes an honest one instead. Kudos!
There is little doubt that at four songs, this offering from Lancashire Lads is too brief. Whilst functioning as appropriate sampler of the band’s delights and talents, one can only hope that new recorded material is not too far away.
Artist: Lancashire Lads
Album Title: The Lancashire Lads EP
Review by Kevin Mathews
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)