What do you do when after 32 years, 50 plus records and countless musicians and collaborators you decide to put one of the world’s best loved Electric Folk groups on the shelf? Well if you’re Ashley Hutchings you start another band and call them Rainbow Chasers of course.
With the release of Chimes At Midnight Hutchings has sought to bring the band to the forefront of the folk scene’s collective consciounesss a mere ten years after they set out. The record is a collection of nine songs culled from the band’s three albums and six previously unreleased tracks, showing the band at their acoustic best with a myriad of styles all sat within the folk tradition but featuring most interestingly, a settled line up!
There’s a strong pop sensibility running throughout the album which comes primarily from the young song-writing arsenal of Jo Hamilton, Ruth Angell and Joe Topping. This sense of pop structure first comes to light on Would You Still be There? with its achingly passionate verses and soaraway chorus. Looking For A Change follows up with a train-track guitar riff and instantly gratifying tune. As a benchmark think Megson or the sunnier moments of Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman.
The band’s musical chops are best represented on the stomping Gypsy Ji’ followed swiftly by the mournful balladry of First Europeans. Better Be Smart is another tack that climbs inside your head and refuses to leave with an insistent refrain and some deft guitar and mandolin duelling, before the fiddle takes over during a rip-roaring bridge. Try and stop humming it for hours afterwards and you’ll fail - it’s that catchy!
There are two moments on the album that stand head and shoulders above everything else though, and those are the epic workouts of Weather and Those Broad Shoulders. Both tunes ebb and flow between laidback melodies and dramatic vocals with an ease that is as impressive as it is effortless. The mid-section of Those Broad Shoulders in particular is absolutely stunning.
Sadly not everything works perfectly and a couple of songs stand out as weaker. Fortune Never Sleeps is a little too saccharine for its own good and though well intended, the Afghan War-themed railroad blues of Big Muddy ends up a tad ham-fisted. It’d be beyond unfair to let that take anything away from a record that overall shows the variety and deft songwriting ability of some of Britain’s best young musicians, ably lead by one of our greatest originators.
Are Rainbow Chasers still British folk music’s best kept secret? Perhaps they are but on the evidence of this fantastic collection they won’t be for very much longer.Rob Fearnley
Released 26th May 2014 on Talking Elephant
2. Would You Still Be Here?
3. The River’s Tale
4. Looking For A Change
5. The Gypsy Jigg
6. First Europeans
7. About Dawn
8. The Trunk Beneath The Bed
9. Fortune Never Sleeps
10. Better Be Smart
11. Those Broad Shoulders
12. Well-dressing Song
13. The Outside World
14. Big Muddy
15. One-eyed Owl