So it’s farewell then to the folk rock behemoth that was Bellowhead, the big band who folked up rock or rocked up folk depending on where you stand. While they avoided using guitar bass and drums, preferring to rely instead on a football team sized presence and hefty wind and fiddle sections, their rollicking folky tales elevated them to the premier league. Firm festival favourites, dominating the BBC Radio Two Folk Awards and shifting discs by the lorry load over a 12-year period. Last year they decided to call it a day.
When Jon Boden, erstwhile leader and front man decided last year that he was standing down the band agreed that they would not carry on. However it’s been a protracted farewell with the band announcing a final tour, that, with a break, began in November and is only now ending with some dates leaking into May. That tour is all but sold out but the band leave behind this triple disc souvenir of the first leg of the tour. Two CDs recorded on November dates and a DVD containing the entire performance from Leicester’s De Montford Hall again from November.
The CDs contain 29 songs and tunes that will surprise no one familiar with the band’s output pulled from the course of their recording career. There’s the stirring shanty Haul Away, the rousing Whiskey Is The Life Of Man along with the Stax like horn opening to Let Her Run. It’s not all crowd-pleasing jigs and reels and sing alongs however with reminders that the band can be inventive with the genre shifting Old Dun Cow while a ballad like Captain Wedderburn is delivered without any fancy flourishes. Moon Kittens continues to sound like their attempt at a James Bond theme.
The CDs, compiled from various venues might approximate one of the varied set lists the band played on the tour but the second disc closes with the three songs that the band generally close shows with. The crowd favourite London Town appears of course with the crowd singing along before New York Girls and Frog Leg’s & Dragon’s Teeth introduce the band members to the audience.
The DVD is an up-close front row seat of the entire show ending with a rendition of Richard Thompson’s Down Where The Drunkard Rolls. Again, it works well as a souvenir or reminder for fans who can relive their concert memories.
Here at Blabber’n’Smoke we prefer not to be bludgeoned by folk music and over the course of this package there’s precious little delicacy. However there’s a lot of folk out there who will lap this up.