While Blabber’n’Smoke would never profess to be well versed in traditional folk music there was a time way back when bands like Fairport Convention and Pentangle were an entry into a world of musicians who were trying to square alternative lifestyles with a particularly Anglicised (and occasionally Celtic) tradition. Groups such as The Incredible String Band, Comus, Steeleye Span and The Albion Band were hip, sharing stages with the rock bands of the day. Rob Young wrote about this phenomenon in his book, Electric Eden (with a fine CD to accompany the book as recommended here) and it’s been gratifying recently to find that there has been a mild resurgence of interest in the idiom both here and in the States.
All of this is by way of introduction to Jon Budworth, a guitar teacher from “deepest darkest Lancashire” whose second EP has found its way here. As you might expect from a tutor his guitar playing is excellent; he cites his primary inspiration as John Renbourn while Richard Thompson and Nic Jones are also name checked in his bio. What really grabbed attention however on this six song set was Budworth’s ability to pen songs that hark back to an England tied to the land, pre industrial, clinging to the seasons, all delivered with a fine sense of brio with Budworth accompanied on various songs by accordion ( Bernard Cromarty) and violin and viola (Elliot Moore).
At its best as on the traditional Searching For Lambs, a haunting mist laden tale straight from Thomas Hardy country or Budworth’s own When Will My Harvest Come Home? where he summons up a percussive drive that would sit well in a Levellers’ set he has a firm hand on Albion’s past, it’s stirring stuff. Dusty Roads tops these however as Budworth picks his way through a simple song that is wintry and desolate as his character attempts to woo a love with poetic, Shakespearean comparisons as the English Civil War rages around them. Muffled cannon fire and musket rounds complete the illusion.
There are some caveats here. The sound on the EP is brash and somewhat tinny while Budworth’s voice occasionally strains to hit the right note, nothing that can’t be sorted with some more experience for sure. The second cover on the disc, Paddy’s Lamentation, transposes the action to the new world where an Irish immigrant is drafted into the American Civil War. With a Celtic feel to it Budworth does struggle to sing with conviction leading one to suggest that he stick to exploring the byways of old Albion as on the songs previously mentioned, all evidence that he has the skills to go down this road. Definitely one to watch however and in the meantime you can buy the CD for a measly £2.49, much less than the price of a pint so why not give it a go.