Album Review – Bowstring, ‘Vinnie’s Return’ (Red Admiral Records, Out Now)
Depending on your experience of folk music, the new Bowstring album will either be folk exactly as you expect it, or folk like you’ve never heard before. In the last few years Roots music has undergone both a revival and a makeover, with artists such as Laura Marling and Noah & The Whale taking the strong traditions in a slightly more commercial direction which saw them shoot up the charts.
Their brilliant use of these tropes has cast a spotlight on the genre that it hasn’t seen in years, and has allowed more traditional outfits such as Bowstring to shine too. If you know folk from the roots up, with all its traditional rural foibles and charms then this album is much more in that vein. If you have become a more recent fan of the genre due to its latest incarnation you could do a lot worse than check out this album to hear how it all began.
The LP is an excellent example of old school folk in all its glory. Many of the tracks are instrumentals, showcasing excellent work on violin (Ramona Eagle) and mandolin (Chris Sadler/Chris Taylor). It is easy to imagine finding the LP tucked into an old vinyl collection and blowing the dust off it before putting it in your record player and enjoying it all again for the first time years.
This is perhaps an overly romantic notion, but it’s hard to deny the respect this release shows for traditions that are decades old. It conjures up images of barn dances, open fires, and old school musicians playing in country pubs to rapt audiences. If this sounds like your idea of hell and you’d rather listen to the latest Black Eyed Peas track than a new song from Mumford & Sons then you need not apply.
But if you enjoy folk in any incarnation there’s a lot to enjoy here. It may be a bit twee for some, those brought up in the Dylan or Loudon Wainwright era of 70s satirical folk or the 2010’s lyrically driven popular re-imagining may balk at the plethora of instrumental tracks on offer here. But you can’t argue with the skill, musicianship and experience put into this album, and I don’t mind telling you I love it.
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