It’s been eight long years since the more folky Dancing To The Devil’s Beat was released, but to use the parlance of the terraces, The Ferryman’s Curse is a return to form, at least for fans of the more symphonic side of these merry minstrels. In short, an album that has Dave Lambert’s overtly rock guitar and whatever excellent keyboard player manager Dave Cousins has brought in to play centre forward is going to be something memorable.
Dave Bainbridge, from Iona, certainly maintains the standard of days of yore where collective Wakemans, Blue Weaver, and John Hawken blessed the band with swathes of dreamy Mellotrony sounds and orchestral ebbs and flows. This premier team also includes Chas Cronk and Tony Fernandez so this new recording unquestionably means more electricity is going to be used. Sitting proudly alongside Bursting At The Seams and Grave New world, this 2017 release is quite frankly magnificent.
Tinged with the recent untimely loss of metal guru producer Chris Tsangarides, third track The Song Of Infinite Sadness is a lovely acoustic song of loss, with a beautiful EBow solo, and is the perfect music to say goodbye to this most revered painter of sound. Never has a Strawbs album sounded so clear. Sentiment continues with The Familiarity Of Old Lovers, both these songs could only have been written by a gentleman of a certain vintage and, again, the guitar solo is just sublime.
However, the CD starts with an optimistic orchestral piece that morphs into The Nails From The Hands Of Christ. This is Dave Cousins at his cynical and wry best, tackling that most controversial of subjects – religion. Musically there’s Dave Lambert’s best Gilmour impression and great organ playing redolent of Floyd at their Wall-like best. The (whatever they use nowadays) Mellotron choir evokes shades of Lay Down and it’s as Proggy as hell.
There’s a seasonal flavour to the wide screen opening of When The Spirit Moves, 12-string guitars weave in and out of orchestral keyboards. An almost pagan chant of hope codas this piece with brass band uplifts, a peel of tubular bells, and last posting trumpet. Lovely.
A bit of blues respite with Blind Faith-esque The Ten Commandments and time to nip to the bar, then the story continues and we get to find out what happened next in a sequel to The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake, from very early album Dragonfly. Spoiler alert, The Ferryman doesn’t come out of this medieval tale very well…
The mood is lightened, as it had to be, with Bats And Swallows then all ends with the grand hoorah of We Have The Power where Mini Moogyness and choirs feed the listener with a great sense of contentment as the music stops in a manner where the proposed ending seemed to have been accidentally erased…
This album is a treat for fans of The Strawbs (or Strawbs?). The definite article may be missing but The Ferryman’s Curse is definitely the definite article…errr. The unique combination of pastoral acoustics, powerful keyboards, Townsend tinged guitar playing, and the unforgettable narration of Dave Cousin’s voice yet again elevate this most English of bands into the hearts of all disciples of these mighty bards. An essential, surprising, and timely release. The bar is now raised and proves once and for all that progressive rock music is a dominant part of our culture.
01. In the Beginning (2:02)
02. The Nails From The Hands Of Christ (6:04)
03. The Song Of Infinite Sadness (5:00)
04. The Familiarity Of Old Lovers (6:21)
05. When The Spirit Moves (6:48)
06. The Ten Commandments (5:32)
07. The Reckoning (1:53)
08. The Ferryman’s Curse (8:57)
09. Bats And Swallows (4:02)
10. We Have the Power (3:58)
Total Time – 51:30
Dave Cousins – Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Electric Dulcimer, Autoharp
Dave Lambert – Vocals, Lead & Acoustic Guitars, EBow
Dave Bainbridge – Keyboards, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Hammond, Bouzouki
Chas Cronk – Vocals, Bass & 12-String Guitars
Tony Fernandez – Drums & Percussion