The Demon Barbers are well-known on the festival circuit, with a reputation as a lively, entertaining stage act, enhanced by the fact that the Demon Barber Roadshow combines the band’s music with traditional dance - clog, morris and rapper. Indeed, they’ve just been nominated for Best Live Act in the BBC Folk Awards 2009.
However, personally I’ve found their previous recorded releases (’Waxed’ & ’Uncut’) to be a bit disappointing. There are highs therein, but the albums are patchy, and at times Damien Barber’s vocals have seemed to wobble. So I approached their latest release, +24db, with mixed expectations.
I have to say, to my mind, the EP marks a step forward for the band. +24db is only a short release - 6 tracks, 24 minutes - but it’s the best, and more consistent, of the Barbers’ releases so far. Mainly a collection of traditional tunes, the CD opens with Damien’s self-penned ’The Good Old Days’ - a great track with some gorgeous fiddle work and decent lyrics - before moving into a laid back cover of the Grateful Dead’s ’Friend of the Devil’.
The EP then turns to the traditional tracks, starting with a version of ’The Amphitrite’, about the rounding of Cape Horn and the joys of Spanish girls (’ not like them Plymouth girls that’ll pawn and sell your clothes’). Then comes a jazzed up cover of the Child Ballad ’Betsy Bell and Mary Gray’ (just referred to as ’Betsy Bell’ on the CD). I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely taken by the arrangement at first, but it’s a definite grower and the claustrophobic feel does fit with the plague tale.
Pit Boots is probably my favourite on the EP - a humorous northern miners song of our hero taking advantage of the young female without ever removing said item of footwear.
The CD then wraps up with a version of Death & the Lady. As with Betsy Bell, the arrangement has been updated with heavier, bassier elements, but for me, this time it doesn’t really work, which is a shame as, overall, this is a corking little album.Craig
Released by Demon Barber on 18 August 2008.
1. The Good Old Days
2. Friend Of The Devil
3. The Amphitrite
4. Betsy Bell
5. Pit Boots
6. Death And The Lady