If I’ve counted correctly, the good brethren and sistren of Blowzabella – Andy Cutting, Jo Freya, Paul James, Gregory Jolivet, Dave Shepherd, Barnaby Stradling and Jon Swayne – play somewhere between 26 and 32 different instruments through the course of this gramophone record, charging between electric alto hurdy gurdy, bass clarinet, diatonic button accordeon, border bagpipes, alto sax, electric bass and, er, triangle. Small wonder they sound like nobody else… and in the course of their 40-year career, they never have done.
A wily old poke in the eye to Brexiteers everywhere, they simultaneously sound very English – especially when Jo Freya takes on a vocal like Adam Was A Poacher and Uttoxeter Souling Song – yet still, after all these years, rampagingly Euro… and often quite mad. Brass presents a hefty rhythm stomp, while hurdy gurdy, fiddle and accordeon weave patterns that whip you into some far distant parallel universe where you dance, you sing, you do somersaults among bluebells, you quaff magic ale and you smile until your ears fall off. It sounds like it is the music of some ancient tradition, yet it is fresh and alert also. There is virtuosity a-plenty in their instrumental interplay, musical banter and complex arrangements yet, even with the likes of Andy Cutting, Paul James and Gregory Jolivet aboard, the individual brilliance is still surpassed by the sum of the parts.
Here, on what must be something like their fourteenth album, their own song and tune writing gets a generous airing – with some radical adaptations along the way, such as the Lark Descending/Bushes & Briars variation assembled by Paul James in homage to Vaughan Williams; the sprightly Grenoside Processional Dance, created by Dave Shepherd’s dad Dick Shepherd in 1951; a bunch of polkas written by Jo Freya and a wild and wonderful tune by Paul James called Coteeto, which at times wanders into the realms of modern jazz.
The music is played with a broad smile and an uplifting spirit that will warm the cockles of your heart… and the heart of your cockles.
You heard a track on the Spring issue’s fRoots 68 compilation.