Bright Young Folk has repeatedly praised Walsh for his genre busting experimentation and willingness to explore the banjo’s limits. Verging on the Perpendicular is no different and if tracks like the Funky Haystack prove anything it is that Walsh is the hardest working man in folk music.
Verging on the Perpendicular, Walsh’s fourth solo album, follows the trend of the previous three and further simplifies the album’s sound. Except for some percussion and harmony Walsh plays and sings alone. Despite the prominence of the banjo, Walsh’s virtuoso and adventurous playing elevates Verging on the Perpendicular’s sound beyond that which you would expect of a ’banjo album.’
Walsh appears to be on a mission to prove the banjo’s versatility, to demonstrate that the banjo can be more than bluegrass and quick finger picking. The bluesy, Out of Here, is a prime example of this; Walsh manipulates the banjo such that you can almost hear brass, electric guitar and double bass. The even more experimental Funky Haystack sees Walsh successfully turn his banjo into a small funk band, providing the emphasized downbeat and impressive solos.
In tracks such as Want What You Don’t Have, The Suilin, and Going to the USA, the banjo becomes a less intrusive and abrasive version of itself as Walsh plays it to accompany his own singing. The banjo simply becomes a more versatile guitar. As a signer and lyricist, Walsh is again stripped down and honest.
Walsh however does include more classical banjo sounds. The Vault, Glen Cottage, and Leave This Land all conform more closely to the sound you would expect of a banjo album. This is not to say that Walsh’s playing is not impressive; Leave This Land, leaves no doubt as to Walsh’s ability to pick his banjo. Moreover, each track draws upon a different tradition, meaning that the experimental sound of the album at large is not reduced.
The banjo carries a lot of baggage within the British folk scene, it is the butt of many jokes and burdened by preconceived notions. Many may be skeptical of Verging on the Perpendicular as a banjo album, but through imagination and great playing Walsh has a produced a banjo album that is not a ’banjo album’. If Walsh set out to change opinions of the banjo he is achieving it.Christopher C Leslie
Released on Rooksmere Records on 28 April 2017.
Produced by Mark Hutchinson.
1. The Vault
2. Want What You Don’t Have
3. Funky Haystack
4. Glen Cottage
5. The Suilin
6. Going To The USA
8. Leave This Land
9. Chase Suites
10. Out of Here
11. Banish Set