For their third album folk big band Bellowhead have brought in producer John Leckie in their quest to push things even more and truly capture their live sound and exuberance on album and they’ve succeeded. Boy have they succeeded. “Hedonism” is a wild, unfettered romp of an album, where caution is thrown to the winds and the band just do what they do.
“A-Begging I Will Go” is Fernando Alonso doing a fastest lap at Monaco: everything on the ragged edge, everything hanging out as far as it possibly can, a millimetre from slamming into the wall but supreme control and skill delivering perfection. Later on you can’t help feeling that if little Sally had heard her eponymous “Racket” she’d have been behind the sofa quaking quicker than you can say “is this really folk music?” while everyone pogoed furiously across the room.
I’m not actually sure this is a folk album though. Bellowhead have always been more than “just” a folk band, with their influences from electronic to world, rock to jazz, and this may be the first album in a new “Bellowhead” genre. It is however quintessentially English – you simply can’t imagine anyone anywhere else producing music like it. Brass, percussion, fiddle, accordion, guitar, even musical saw all make appearances and mesh perfectly into the overall sound. Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam” is the only (slight) misstep, as Jon Boden errs too much on the theatrical side as opposed to truly conveying the tether’s end despair of the lyric but that aside this is an exhilarating, inventive, big album from a exhilarating, inventive big band