The band’s new line-up delivers some vividly potent original writing.
Sid Smith 2012-05-09
Over the last 40 years, something like 160 musicians have passed through the ranks of The Albion Band. Throughout that time, founder Ashley Hutchings has been at the helm. In a move that took many observers by surprise, Hutchings handed over the stewardship of the band to his son, guitarist and vocalist, Blair Dunlop.
Rather than populating the band with grizzled vets of the folk scene, Dunlop recruited a new generation of musicians: Gavin Davenport, Katriona Gilmore (who first saw The Albion Band in 1997 as a 12-year-old), Tom Wright and Tim Yates. Together they restore a more rock-inclined vitality to a set which is, in essence, a survey of the state of modern-day Britain. There’s a palpable anger at what has become of old Albion seething within tracks that document the widening gaps between rich and poor, incipient inequality dressed up as choice, and the paucity of ambition that bedevils so many young people in the thrall of talent shows and celeb culture.
A cappella opener A Quarter Hour of Fame points a recriminatory finger at the desire to be famous without any requisite ability or achievement: "And what about the history that made our country’s name? Who are you heroes now? / Would you trade it all for glory and a quarter hour of fame? Who are your heroes now?" As respect for our political and financial institutions has never been lower, Davenport’s Thieves Song is a timely reminder that not everyone who wants to rob us blind will be a lowly burglar: "So put no faith in rich men, though gold they have in store / For now they have the taste of it they’ll want it 10 times more!"
What at first seemed unthinkable and something of a risk has proved to have been a gamble that’s paid off handsomely if this debut record of the new line-up is anything to go by. With tightly-drilled playing and some vividly potent original writing, The Albion Band looks to be in good hands for the foreseeable future.