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Album reviews with Steve Johnson: May 2, 2022

New releases from Bird in the Belly, Rupert Wates and Dusty the Kid

Bird in the Belly
After the City
GF*M Records
★★★★

In a world facing seemingly endless threats of wars and pandemics it would seem appropriate for someone to release an album with a post-apocalyptic theme. 

Four-piece Brighton-based band Bird in the Belly have done that with their third studio album.

Inspired by an 1885 novel by Richard Jeffries, the album gives a vision of an England recovering from catastrophe. The opening song Tragic Hearts of Towns has a merry sounding melody but we then go onto a series of songs referencing the biblical four horsemen. 

An old Broadside ballad, Jemmy is Slain, acknowledges war and combat and Famine, Fever and Frost is a song from the Lancashire cotton famine of the 1860s.

The final three songs however strike a more hopeful note with Lay Low Lay seeing nature triumph. Great vocals and instrumentals help make this a more cheerful album than might be expected from the theme.

 

Rupert Wates
For the People
Bite Music
★★★★

Rupert Wates is an English folk singer-songwriter now based in New York and this album can best be described as a love song to humanity. 

Although the 10 songs are all originals written by Wates, they are firmly rooted in traditional music loosely based on old English folk tales.

Starting with the title track a general ode to friendship and love, the album takes us through tales of mermaids in (Oh Captain) and smugglers (Three Thousand Guineas) whilst The North Road commemorates a notorious 18th-century murder.

There is also a World War I medley, A Florin to the Beam/Hills of Blue Heather.

Ending appropriately with Dance of Joy marking the passing of summer into winter the album is both traditional and contemporary with great singing and guitar work. Music of and for the people indeed.

 

Dusty the Kid
Days of Love and Rage
Roadhill Rodeo Records 
★★★★★

Born and raised in Montana, this debut album from a young US folk/protest singer aims to restore folk music to its revolutionary roots in American Labour history. 

He has certainly made a promising start with a collection of songs depicting the life and struggles of working-class people. Raise the Banner is a timeless call for solidarity whilst songs like Miltown Blues and Bethlehem Steel deal with themes of industrial life.

Sea Song pays tribute to workers in fishing communities, Savory, Sage and Cyprus references women’s oppression and The Ballard of Frank Little commemorates a union organiser murdered by Pinkerton thugs.

With a rockabilly singing style this is Folk Americana at its best. Dusty the Kid is carrying on the great traditions of Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs in his politically relevant songwriting.

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