There’s been a bit of a buzz in the blogosphere regarding this debut from Cornish band William The Conqueror, partly due to an impressive appearance at last year’s Americana Fest in Nashville and a nomination for best song at this year’s UK Americana awards. A listen to the album however begs that age-old question, what is Americana? (Answers on a postcard please) as it draws from and reflects so many other genres. Appearing on Loose Music helps as they are rightly considered purveyors of quality “Americana” music but Proud Disturber Of The Peace is quite idiosyncratic, grungy, folky, lo-fi and even soulful at times, it’s really a trip into a singular vision. The closest equivalent I can think of is the music that emanated from the early days of The Fence Collective, a bunch of folk who tore up the rule book back at the tail end of the nineties.
The trio (Ruarri Joseph, Harry Harding and Naomi Holmes) recorded the album live with few overdubs or post production resulting in an up close band sound, the instruments piling on top of each other. The opening song In My Dreams hurtles in resembling the jangled frenzy of The Velvet Underground and the street busking bustle of The Violent Femmes while the following Tend To the Thorns is a trip into the epic “big music” sound of The Waterboys with some Echo And The Bunnymen thrown into the mix. Third song, Did You Wrong, is another thrash in the instrumental department although here Joseph adopts a laconic and cool vocal delivery. Thereafter however they settle down somewhat with the remainder of the songs less frenetic.
Pedestals builds on Joseph’s talkin’ blues style (which again is rather laid back although impassioned) as the band vamp along with some horns adding atmosphere. Keeping the horns they plunge headlong into street r’n’b territory on the slippery rhythms of The Many Faces Of A Good Truth which recalls Gill Scott Heron while Cold Ontario continues in a similar vein. Mindful of Joseph’s previous stint as a folk singer Mind Keeps Changing recalls early folk rock a la Greenwich Village with echoes of Tim Hardin although it builds into a muscular keyboard driven rock song by the end while Manawatu, which closes the album, has classic folk harmonica amidst its thrusting instrumental climb to a rousing climax. Best of all perhaps is the title song which gathers much of what surrounds it on the album as the band ride tempo changes, guitars burst into bloom and the rhythm section busks away with some fervour. Over this Joseph almost croons with a cool authority which reminds one of Morphine’s Mark Sandman’s beat vocals.
I guess that looking back on the litany of comparisons up above then William The Conqueror are certainly to be considered in the world of alt whatever. What matters is that the album is a great listen that pushes the envelope somewhat. Give it a shot.