The People. Storr. Astral Records

storrA five piece band with Scottish and Northumberland roots, The People are one of those bands who seem to take their time serving up their offerings. Storr is their third release but ten years have passed since their last album, Desire, The Devil And The Ghost. Storr, presumably named in honour of the rocky protuberance on Skye is an album that is cloaked in a Celtic mist although there is an undeniable American bent to some of the songs. Like many of our newer bands here in Scotland, they’re reclaiming some of the melodies and themes that travelled the ocean with settlers to the New World and bringing them home.

They open the album with the brief Hymn, an acapella, well, hymn, delivered like Amazing Grace with the band in devotional mood hymning heaven and hell. The very brief mood is then rent asunder by clangourous trumpet and thrashing drums, the introduction to a seven minute epic called Kaon Blues (Part 1). Now, looking up Kaon takes one into the weird and wonderful world of quarks and I’m certainly not qualified to talk on them but they seem to be strange little buggers, full of strangeness and I’m afraid that this applies to the song also. Over its seven minutes it mixes Pepperish trumpets, folky lilts and the sort of “big music” proffered by early Waterboys with the whole less than the parts. It’s a brave venture, especially as the introduction to the album but for this reviewer there’s just too much thrown into the pot.

Thankfully the remainder of the album is, for want of a better word, more straightforward.  Into The Wilds flows sweetly with rippling guitar and fine harmonies disguising the darkness in the lyrics which reek of elemental mysteries and portents of doom and the closing fiddle adds to the atmosphere. The River also roams within this dark hinterland with a melody that initially reminds one of I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry but which soon turns into an excellent threnody laced with piano and weeping fiddle and which ultimately sounds as if it could have been plucked from The Child Ballads. It’s another lengthy number, over six minutes, but it grabs your attention throughout. Playing to their strengths they then turn in the bristling and witchy fiddle fuelled Henry ‘O which recalls the heyday of late sixties folk rock and the pagan melodies of The Wicker Man.

Aside from their fine attentions to dark and weird folk they offer up the excellent Ballad Of The Lighthouse Keeper which opens with a brief snatch of bluesy slide guitar before wandering into a sea borne lament which is interrupted by a scratchy snippet of the shipping forecast before the band weigh anchor for the remainder of the song giving it a mournful cast with a lonesome trumpet playing. Overall the album portrays the band in a fine light. One could argue the pros and cons of Kaon Blues all night but the remainder of the album is impressive indeed.

You can catch The People live at the upcoming Doricana Fest

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