It was roughly three years ago when I first encountered Blackbeard's Tea Party in the basement of a cinema in York, they were supporting a great Yorkshire duo called the Hut People and, even though they were a little depleted on numbers they still managed to put on a great show.
|From left Martin Coumbe, Liam "Yom" hardy, Tim yates,
Dave Boston, Stuart Giddens and front Laura Barber
who make up Blackbeard's Teaparty.
Their latest album Whip Jamboree, which is out on April 8, bears a lot of similarity to Bellowhead in style with its juggling mix of eclectic sounds and songs although, somehow, they manage to keep their tracks a little more grounded in traditional folk, even so, with their use of electric they also give the feel of Fairport Convention.
The album kicks off full of energy with The Valiant Turpin whacking you with a stomping, rasping fiddle sound from Laura Barber before the shanty-style voices move in and with the cadence they create you can almost feel the ropes being hauled up over the side. The beat never lets up and is highlighted by some wonderfully manic electric guitar. There is no rest either with the next track as the squeezebox of Stuart Giddens joins the fiddle to illustrate that the Devil's In The Kitchen.
Bulgine brings some great fiddle playing which is followed by the New Jigs the sound of which would slide into any Fairport album without you noticing the join. There seems to be a great deal of experiment on this album although it doesn't always come off with one track in particular Lankin, which has the dark themes often associated with folk, but the sound seems to have gone too far away from anything recognisable as folk and at times has more of the rock sound of Santana.
However, there are some great and unusual sounds on this album and you can almost feel BTP stretching their artistic wings and exploring new areas, not tentatively but with great big steps in tracks such as Ford O'Kabul River, the tune put together by Peter Bellamy with its war cry beat which is not surprising considering it's inspired by Kipling's poem of a group of Hussars who drown while fording a river.
With Bulgine Laura is let off the leash to wonderful effect where her fiddle incorporates an undertone of Raggle Taggle Gypsies into the main tune.
The previous track The New jigs gives Stuart a chance to exercise his squeeze box before the track fills out with Laura and the guitar sounds of Martin Coumbe and Tim Yeats.
Laura really shines again on Polka Against the Clock which, with the rest of the band, somehow has the feel of a theme tune to a blockbuster movie.
The Four Hour Shovel is one of those tracks which never really settles into one style or another starting with the brooding sound of the bass and ending with a much more traditional and lighter sound of the fiddle.
The sound of the European gypsy then wafts in, driving the "dirty" song The Landlady which has the undertones of a rather macabre or slightly sinister cabaret act but is never so dark as you miss the fun of the track.
Whistable Cottage written by Laura is about as traditional as any track on this album gets but there are still the twists and turns that never let you really get comfortable with it and this is the kind of composition which you could easily associate with those other great craftsmen of the fiddle Seth Lakeman and Dave Swarbrick.
Last on the album is the title track and once again shows the skill, speed and versatility of Laura which gives way to the shanty that ends the album as it started with a banging, stomping throat-grabbing sound.
This is such a grown up album with wonderful twists, turns and dark themes and sounds, it's certainly not one for anyone who wants an introduction to the genre, this is for serious folkies and as a lesson to anyone who thinks folk is dull.
For more information visit http://www.blackbeardsteaparty.com.