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Pilgrims’ Way Wayside Courtesies Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A promising debut from Kipling-loving Stockport folk revivalists.

Patrick Humphries 2011

"Jaunty" is the word which immediately springs to mind when listening to the debut album from Stockport trio Pilgrims’ Way.  The most striking element is the versatile voice of Lucy Wright, equally adept at handling a haunting ballad as a spritely knees-up.

Taking their name from a Peter Bellamy setting of a Rudyard Kipling poem (as well as the album title), Pilgrims’ Way are third-generation folk revivalists, sourcing their material from the likes of Bellamy, Anne Briggs and Norma Waterson.  But no matter where the songs come from, there’s no doubting the verve of their rendering here.

There’s a variety and versatility to their source material which is welcome, because if there is one criticism of the haunting beauty of Wright’s performance it’s that she could lighten up a little. Pilgrims’ Way cover the waterfront, from the rousing Tarry Trousers to the poignant Dark Eyed Molly. The lengthy My Generous Lover does flag spread over near 10 minutes, whereas Adieu Lovely Nancy tugs the heart strings at a good single’s length. These are songs of cross-dressing, love and betrayal; war and mechanisation. These are songs which span the years, sung and played with enthusiasm, fiddle and melodeon bringing a spritely air to jigs and reels.

But the core of the album is A Pilgrim’s Way, penned by Kipling, that poet of Empire. It was 40 years ago that the late Peter Bellamy began the Kipling revival – his classic 1970 album Oak Ash & Thorn is just making its CD debut. In this trio’s hands, A Pilgrim’s Way becomes a timely song of unity and is, in their words, a "great humanist anthem", with its refrain of "The people, O’ the people / Are good enough for me".

If there is a criticism of Wayside Courtesies, it’s that some of the performances are a tad tentative, and perhaps the net could be cast wider for material. Otherwise this is a promising debut, with encouraging signs that a 21st century folk revival is reaching out to fresh generations.

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