Home Service are back, and you are wholeheartedly recommended to tune in.
Patrick Humphries 2011
Back in the 20th century, long before The Unthanks and Mumford & Sons, Home Service really did seem to offer a fresh way forward for the long-overdue folk revival. Rising out of the ashes of The Albion Band, the eight-piece outfit were strong on politics, performance and a bracing brand of music which sounds as strong and exhilarating today as it did on these performances from 1986.
There were so many elements which made them special: the songwriting skills of John Tams; the fiery guitar of Graeme Taylor; the impeccable choice of material. Yet what really elevated Home Service from the folk-rock rut was their innovative brass section. On disc, the late Howard Evans (trumpet), Andy Findon (flute) and Roger Williams (trombone) propel the music with vigour. But it’s the very Englishness which made the band stand out: this is not the funky brass of the Memphis Horns, rather a stately procession, born out of Salvation Army and colliery brass bands.
Back together for the first time in 25 years, the ‘star’ of Home Service is Tams, familiar for his trio of solo albums, TV appearances in Sharpe and as the musical force behind War Horse. But here, Tams is very much a team player, his songs nailed by the rock-hard rhythm section of Michael Gregory and Jonathan Davie. And what songs they are, among the best the anthemic Walk My Way and Alright Jack, which call for unity and camaraderie. Scarecrow stands as one of the most striking of all anti-war songs, while the medley of Sorrow and Babylon is even more inspiring in its depiction of a world run riot. But it is the ineffably poignant Rose of Allendale which is perhaps the outstanding performance.
I doubt if you will hear music as committed and heartfelt as this from any genre this year – and it’s ironic that it comes from the much-maligned folk tradition, and from a bunch of geezers old enough to know better. It would be criminal to let them slip away again. Home Service are back, and you are wholeheartedly recommended to tune in.