A new take on traditional British Folk music
'A feast of classic folk-rock'
The new album from TRADarrr
Sleeve notes and lyrics HERE
Released by Proper Music on 29th January
Review by Folk Radio HERE
'The band are mining a rich seam of traditional songs in their search for material, but it is the flair and imagination going into the arrangements that set them apart. It’s one thing to have the inspiration but it takes a group of musicians with the exceptional skill set found in TRADarrr to master this impressive array of instruments and bring their inspirations to fruition.'
Review from Nigel Schofield in Tykes News
TradArrr’s raw material is folk song: its raw approach is rock. A redefinition of folk rock, in short.
The seven-piece line up I suspect qualifies as a big band these days. More importantly, the range of instruments which they play – and play commandingly it must be stressed – means within the octet are not only folk and rock, but also a brass section, a string quartet, several jazz groupings, a fiddle trio, a full saxophone section and six – count ‘em – lead vocalists. No wonder they sound so good, and so varied. This last is important because the material they pick tends to be familiar (herein, for example, are The Barley Straw, Rose of Allendale, Cold Blows The Wind and The Blacksmith) which have not only been extensively folked but fulsomely folk-rocked too. New versions have to bring something fresh and certainly cannot simply be different for the sake of being different. This is Trad arr’s greatest strength, their versions of songs are effective, remarkable, and totally valid. Steeleye may have tackled The Blacksmith on their first two albums – none brought in the layered vocals, complex rhythms, atmospheric strings and Muscle Shoals vibe that make this take so special (and when you’ve got P J Wright, who needs Steve Cropper?). This is folk-rock that doesn’t set out to reinvent, but rather presents songs from the tradition within the wider panorama of 20th century popular music. Music from then, in a style of a more recent then, for now.
Lover’s Lament, an understated, poetic lament, is a perfect example of what is great about the band: a full, yet economic arrangement, full of musical allusion (how deft is the Cutty Wren counterpoint therein?), layered crystalline vocals, atmospheric strings, brass that brings to mind Percy Grainger. Like the rest of the album, it gives you everything you need but nothing you don’t require.
I can’t end without mentioning the epic conclusion – The Staunton Whale – starting with full-force acapella harmonies, it builds and writhes, hauling the narrative on a musical Nantucket Sleighride, a mighty leviathan of a recording that blows out every Span.
It’s 50 years since Liege & Lief almost single-handedly created the genre folk-rock. Since then, that simple marriage of traditional music and electric instruments had been suborned and sidetracked, dissected and documented, Oystered, Albioned and Steeleyed.
Time for a fresh approach. Enter TRADarrr.
Punningly recalling the assault of the new which Fairport’s 1969 LP represented, they have reimagined folk rock, painting from a much larger palette, introducing the tints, tones and textures of a whole panoply of musical genres. As you’d expect, here are the precision percussion, searingly tasteful guitars, melodic basses and fiery fiddles that one associates with the genre. But in addition, one finds brass in truly British styles – the dazzling brightness of Purcell, the oomph of Elgar, the emotive richness of a Yorkshire brass band soloist - but also hints of jazz, trad and modern, and even the occasional mariachi riff, string sections, and countless astute references to a long legacy of pop and rock in its many forms.
However, this is by no means an “everything including the kitchen sink” approach. Elements are used sparingly, tellingly and, most important of all, appropriately. When less is more, the sound is stripped back – listen to their almost acapella take on My Lagan Love and no further explanation is needed. Many of the songs and tunes they perform are familiar classics. Many are simply gems from the tradition that band members have always wanted to perform - could there be a better reason for singing a song?
After the success of their first album, Cautionary Tales, and the highly acclaimed second album, Further Tales of Love, Death and Treachery, work has now finished on the band's third studio album, Strange
News, which is released through Proper Music on January 29th.
Photo by Markus Scheidtweiler - Germany 2019