Thanks to John Spiers for spotting that a reference to his album with Jon Boden as Fallow Road. The caption in question has been corrected - it's Fallow Ground, of course - and I apologise to the lads for the sloppy error
Here is some good news, and a piece of even better news, for lovers of superior English folk music.
In glorious defiance of the wretched impact of Covid-19 lockdowns on music, Bellowhead and the duo formed by its founder members, John Spiers and Jon Boden, have come up with new albums.
Fallow Ground, from Spiers and Boden, is the better of the two news items since it launches their comeback, the album to be followed - doubtless subject to where the Johnson variant has led us all by then - by a 23-date tour that includes a full day event at Cecil Sharp House, headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, on October 9.
The album, conceived before the pandemic, builds on the punchy virtuosity of both men - Spiers on accordion and melodeon, Boden on fiddle - and Boden's compelling and utterly distinctive vocals, a combination that always underpinned one of the greatest and most invigorating pairings English folk has produced.
It is an instantly infectious collection of mostly traditional songs and tunes, though the title evokes the effects of the crisis on their trade as well as their chosen break from performing together.
Jon Boden and John Spiers. Courtesy of the folkimages site
Bellowhead Reassembled is not (yet) quite what might be hoped from such a title.
Whenever I find myself yearning for a full return to live and studio work, I remember that 11 musicians playing 20 instruments would confront any band with a mighty economic and logistical challenge. And I think back to the wonderful but predictably short-lived Irish supergroup Arcady.
But Bellowhead did reform temporarily during lockdown, first to record remotely from their various homes and then to stage an audience-free concert last December that sold 10,000 online tickets and yielded the live album now available.
Bellowhead was a bold and scintillating experiment in the presentation of folk music and I offer the fervent hope that a public starved of live music would rush, post-pandemic, to make it a proper comeback seem a viable option.
Two of the people whose views on music i most respect are Bill Taylor, a Salut! Live contributor and a friend of closer to 60 than 50 years, and my granddaughter Maya, all of 12 but blessed with a remarkable musical ear. Both have been known to drool over Bellowhead and that is good enough for me.
A recent item here, about the Bellowhead version of Broomfield Hill, prompted this interesting exchange:
Broomfield Hill does not appear on Bellowhead Reassembled. So I have chosen, to illustrate this article, a piece Maya particular likes, Cross Eyed and Chinless, in which the various instruments seem - as she observed while listening in the car - to talk to one another.
And in the absence of a readily available track to embed here from their new album (though I think the title can be reached at this link) , I offer Spiers and Boden with some more lockdown fun, a remote production of Prickleye Bush complete with a staged false start.
*** Fallow Ground release date by Hudson Records: September 17 2021
** Fallow Ground Comeback Tour
Tues 28th St. David’s Hall, Cardiff
Wed 29th Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan
Thu 30th Redgrave Theatre, Bristol
Fri 1st The Regal, Tenbury Wells
Sat 2nd Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham
Sun 3rd Exeter Phoenix
Mon 4th Cheese & Grain, Frome
Tue 5th Komedia, Brighton
Wed 6th Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Fri 8th Revelation, Ashford
Sat 9th FULL DAY The Spiers & Boden Festival at Cecil Sharp House, London
Sun 10th Chipping Norton Theatre
Mon 11th Nettlebed Village Club, Nr Henley on Thames
Tue 12th The Corn Hall, Diss
Sat 16th Hartlepool Folk Festival
Mon 18th Colchester Arts Centre
Tue 19th Cambridge Junction
Wed 20th Pocklington Arts Centre
Thu 21st Manchester Folk Festival
Fri 22nd The Live Room, Saltaire
Sun 24th The Music Room, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall *matinee and evening shows
Mon 25th Rheolwr Neuadd Ogwen, Bethesda, Bangor
Tues 26th Aberystwyth Arts Centre
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