Wednesday, 24 June 2015

THE MATHER ROBINSON BAND

CD Review

A Carousel For Fools

Be warned The Mather Robinson Band get in your face right from the very first note. It's a fair bet subtlety isn't a word the band is familiar with which is not necessarily a band thing. 

The Mather Robinson Band
Their music is solid, their songs often politically motivated and their lyrics scythe like. Many will remember that sort of thing from when a lot of folk had an edge which so often seems dulled of late.
After opener Sibelius, yes inspired by the composer who was a bit of a lad to say the least, which comes at you like a bull in a field Anthony Quinn, Dave Mather, Pete Robinson and Chris Mather give you a chance to get your breath back with their rendition of Paradise Street.
The band from the North, seem to have come out of the shadows where they have be lurking for some time. There is something wonderfully loose about their music it almost seems like when they are playing they want to get on, get it done and get to the bar. It has that sort of club circuit feel about it but that's not to insult any of their talent, they remind a little of the Wolfetones in style where they have never lost that common touch of being one of the lads and enjoying rabble rousing. You have to give them brownie points for tracks such as Men Of Constant Sorrow, which has nothing to do with the Soggy Bottom Boys or the film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? but is a political song which takes to task politicians' soundbites.
The Girl I Left Behind me does pay homage to the original popularised by the John Wayne film She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, although the tune does go back much further than that. MRB give it their treatment adding layers of guitar, flute and mandolins to create what is a pretty good ballad and has more than a feel of something Roger Whittaker would sing.
Good old traditional and ribald folk music raises its head with The Vicar of Barton Wood. This tale of a vicar being corrupted by the women of his parish is all about the lyrics. "He was a poacher by night and a God-fearing Christian by day", give you a flavour of the nature of the tale. It's good old scandalous folk music at its best.
Percy Byshe Shelley
The sort of music Victorians would condemn in their piety then flock to music halls to listen to, just so they could feel morally outraged. MRB may not sound that refined but they are a breath of fresh air when it comes to bringing poignant and barbed songs into the arena. We Won't Lie Down is inspired by The Mask of Anarchy by Percy Byshe Shelley and is from the 19th century. It does have the feel of something from a theatre musical but like bands such as the Levellers, Chumbawumba and Show of Hands it's the message that's important. The music is of course good but its never allowed to get in the way of the politically motivated lyrics. Wild Mountain Thyme aka Go Lassie Go is a well-known song and MRB do it no disservice with their version, the percussion, light flute playing and guitar give it the right Celtic feel where you almost expect a squadron of pipers to come marching in and take over.
In The Name of the Father is inspired by the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris earlier this year. It's slightly sinister mandolin playing adds to the atmosphere of the lyrics which give it very much a feel of The Stones' Sympathy for the Devil. The lyrics are a searing indictment of religious extremism and evil acts human are capable of.
They come up next with You Should Have Been There which is what could be an anti-folk song. It has all the elements of doom, gloom and murder but this song concentrates on the changes and good, people and tragedies have brought for humanity. This is a hard, throbbing clarion song which calls humanity to see beyond the bad and realise anyone and everyone can make a difference. It sounds a little like a folk version of Peter Gabriel's Biko.
Like Dirty Ol Town by Ewan MacColl My Old Town is also about Salford, the band's home town, and how it, especially the docks, have changed. It does have a seventies feel about it and recalls memories of tracks such as the theme to Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? by Mike Hugg of Manfred Mann fame or Banner Man by Blue Mink.
The new album from the band
Sicily Bound is bang up to date with the angry feel of the music and lyrics outlining the plight of refugees dying in the Mediterranean in an effort to seek a better life.
 It has really cutting lyrics such as "Drowning is not the only way to lose your life." and points to us all having responsibility for our brothers and sisters no matter which part of the world they come from. The penultimate track was inspired by a true incident from Robinson's childhood.
Please Monsieur is an anti-war song which centres around a wounded veteran who he used to pass every week with his mother as they visited his granny's. Robinson's stark almost madrigal style music and singing somehow adds to the poignancy of the tale.
The album ends with the traditional John Barleycorn which has been a staple of the band's live performances and this was their chance to lay it down on an album. It's a very stripped down version of the tune and is all the better for that with Quinn's flute playing really adding to the tale with kind of playing Ian Anderson would be impressed with.
This is a sharp album and restores your faith in folk music to be a thorn in the side of those misusing or abusing their power, influence and wealth to the detriment of the majority of society, it's also damn good fun to listen to.

A Carousel For Fools it available now through the band's website.