Wednesday 9 April 2014


CD Review

Something To Take The Edge Off

Every now and again the cogs of the universe mesh, lock up, shudder and shake until something gives and a wonderful piece of originality goes flying off into the ether. In this case it's the eccentrically named Edd Donovan & The Wandering Moles.

Edd Donovan
Their new album, Something To Take The Edge Off which is out later this month, is just a gloriously different collection of songs.
Although saying that the tracks have this same "trademark" beat, a travelling dum ditty dum ditty dum like the soundtrack to every Western film you have ever watched. There are times where you can almost see Clint Eastwood walking down a dusty street with his cheroot and the sun high in the sky.
It's one of those albums that from the first bars you find your foot tapping along and bizarrely it carries an obvious originality yet at the same time there is an instant familiarity that will hook you.
Donovan, who has migrated from the North to Cheltenham, has such a gentle voice which comes in after the Road To Nowhere-style introduction of We Are The Wandering Moles. There are wonderful strands which creep in and out of your hearing such as the subtle twang of the Jew's harp which adds the highlights to the rolling beat that becomes almost a catchphrase by the end of the album.
Woke Up This Morning sounds like it should be a blues song but Donovan's lyrics dance along over the top of the beat with a gentle sound which may not register on the power scale but has a clarity which would carry it across mountain ranges.
Donovan pushes the tempo a little faster for House On Fire and his lyrics seem to be playfully trying to race the guitar which is providing the main rhythm throughout.
There is something restful and extremely friendly about Donovan's voice and none more so than on Don't Be Afraid (parts 1&2) which in the second part moves into sounding more like something from Fairport, it has a freshness which somehow carries a retro feel with it as the beat builds up.
There are some honest and thought-provoking lyrics throughout this album such as "don't be afraid to dig up your past and investigate."
Something To Take The Edge Off
The Show Goes On evokes thoughts of that great anthem made famous by Pete Seeger Little Boxes which looks under the veneer of society's respectability. Donovan has fuelled it with lyrics such as "the curtains hide what's really going on" and "you may think you're the Son of God or someone better." This has all the hallmarks of the protest songs of old and if you could travel back in time you could drop this into Joan Baez's, Bob Dylan's or Joni Mitchell's repertoire and it wouldn't feel out of place.
Staying on a retrospective note, The Stone has more than a hint of Simon & Garfunkel about it in terms of its sound while Donovan's singing sounds very much like his name sake's and once again there are those subtle strands of sound from the percussion which you don't always notice but when you do you realise the colour they add to the whole.
With Glasses And A Beard we even have a little bit of Buddy Holly-style thrown in with the introduction of some clever and playful electric picking giving it a gentle rockabilly sound. Although if you listen to the lyrics, had they been released during Holly's era the band would have been run out of town by a torch and pitchfork bearing mob.
The tempo is cranked up again for Call Me Old Fashioned and never lets up, you feel like you have to jump on this rattler as soon as it comes along otherwise it will leave you behind.
I am A Social Worker is a wonderful example of what modern folk music can be, with so much inert acoustic music riding the tide of folk's current popularity, this is a song which speaks directly of the modern condition.
Edd Donovan
It has some really thoughtful lyrics such as "I am a social caretaker, a remedy of kind. I am a social medicator, I'll give you something if you like." The great appeal of these songs is Donovan's subtle and unassuming voice is so easy on the ear and yet time and time again your senses will be jerked by the barbs and poetry of his words.
With an album such as this the only thing that seems missing is a harmonica but the last track, You Can Do, sorts that out which is an uplifting ballad and provides that often overlooked quality of going out on a CD  as strongly as you come in. There are even shades of Oasis in his voice on this track, very subtle as most of his work is, but there nonetheless.
Donovan can be proud that there isn't a weak or bad track on this album and it's refreshingly different and original. It is a great example of how folk music can be thought-provoking and shine a light on modern life while still being extremely entertaining without being cynical.

Something To Take The Edge Off is released on April 21 as the first album of the new Paper Label Records.
If you want to see Edd Donovan & The Wandering Moles live you can catch them on April 20 at The Prince Albert, Stroud. The show starts at 7pm. The following night, April 21, they play at LAMP, Leamington, the show starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £5+fees and then April 24 at The Guitar Bar, Nottingham.

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