I think that the whole band felt that, when we stopped playing in 1987, we still had plenty of life left in us, Carthy writes in the notes, "and that, when we played the Sidmouth Festival eight years later, it felt as though we'd never been away." Brass Monkey's comeback album is an exhilarating blend of sea songs, Morris tunes, travellers' songs and a pipe march.
There's nothing quite like the sound and sometimes fury of Brass Monkey. It's a sound that's quite archaic, recalling 19th-century street bands and troubadours. Martin Carthy contributes guitar and vocals; John Kirkpatrick adds various squeezeboxes, his own idiosyncratic vocals, and his alternating attitude of severity and whimsy. The Brass are Howard Evans, Richard Cheetham, and Martin Brinsford, whose silver horns have appeared on more British folk-pop records than can be counted. While the sound is archaic, the arrangements are rich with their own clever turns, betraying syncopation and swing, odd turns and phrases probably not strictly out of the tradition. The material is all from the British folk book: dance tunes blithe and formal; ballads of doom and death; sprightly songs about love and life. Longtime fans will find a few faithful re-creations of familiar tunes like the solid "Old Horse," with Carthy's voice even more appropriately dire after a few years of weathering. But the closing number, a medley of tunes from Kirkpatrick's songbook, are what this band is about: a heady, full-throttle drive of instruments, bordering on chaos but always in control, lively, jaunty, and altogether charming. --Louis Gibson