The Demon Barber’s latest release, ’The Adventures of Captain Ward’ is their first for a few years and follows a period of touring and live playing that resulted in the band being awarded Best Live Act at the 2009 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Capturing the essence of a great live act on an album is never easy, but this record does it well. The novel use of a beatbox fits seamlessly with distinctive Demon Barber clog dancers. Its never less than refreshingly experimental and eccentric and in the main, it works very well.
The cover art is a bold cartoon image of the piratical Captain Ward, and it’s this track that gives the album a strong start. Damien Barber’s powerful vocal tells the well-known story with verve, with some rousing backing singing and a driving rhythm.
The wide differences in style in this album are illustrated by the songs that follow. ’Pound a Week Rise’ is a very political and authentic tale of the 60s, first recorded in the 80s, which manages to sound completely contemporary in this version. ’Three Drunken Maidens’ is a highly entertaining, crude and ska-inspired drinking song with a spot of ’Oi’ chanting.
An excellent cover of the Grateful Dead’s ’Friend of the Devil’ is dark but oddly mellow, giving the feeling that being on the run isn’t so bad after all.
A gloomy, spooky version of ’Three Ravens’ is well contrasted by the inspiring ’Rise Up’ while there are three fine instrumentals on the album, ’Harry’s Hornpipe’, ’Munchen Fest’ and ’My Mammy’s Coming’. Bryony Griffith’s passionate voice is to the fore in the beatbox-heavy ’Soul Cake’ and the nursery rhyme inspired ’The Magpie’.
’Captain Ward’ takes a lot of risks and the album captures the Demon Barbers live magic remarkably well.Mike Hough
Released on 7 June 2010 by Demon Barber Sounds. Recorded at Wavelength Studios, Doncaster (November 2009) and Underbank Studios (January 2010). Recording engineer: Andy Bell.
Damien Barber - vocals, guitar, English concertina
Bryony Griffith - fiddle, vocals
Will Hampson - melodeon
Lee Sykes - bass, backing vocals
Ben Griffit - drums, percussion, backing vocals
John Stuckey, Hannah James - clogs, backing vocals
Tiny Taylor, Laura Connolly - clogs
Fiona Taylor - backing vocals
1. Captain Ward
2. München Fest
3. Bonny Boy
4. Rise Up
5. Harry’s Hornpipe
6. Soul Cake
7. Pound a Week Rise
8. The Magpie
9. Three Drunken Maids
10. Calling-On Song
11. Friend of the Devil
12. Kiss Me Quick My Mammy’s Coming / The Queen of Sluts
13. Three Ravens