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Wednesday, 24th April 2019
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Stick in the Wheel - From Here

From HereStick In The Wheelís debut album From Here is terrible.  And brilliant.

In a world used to the glossy overproduction of TV talent shows and manufactured bands, this remarkable record stands out as a rough diamond.  The production values are simple. One take vocals, wrong notes, distortion and tuning problems.  The backing vocals are out of time and itís only when you listen closely to how well the compression and eq has been applied that you realise this is actually a very, very good recording.

The vocal performances are rough and ready to put it mildly, and the instrumental backing is childishly simple. And itís great. No diddly diddly, no 100MPH reels, the arrangements let the vocals take centre stage.  Never flashy, the arrangements underpin the songs.  The playing, like the recording itself, is considerably better than it sounds. There is real subtlety to the musicianship, artfully concealed in a haze of ostinatos and repetitive droning.

The material, largely traditional, is well known (Carthy, Bert Lloyd, Penguin book), well worn, and accessible but presented with an unsettling edge. There is none of the wistful, frothy girly in faded colours present in the vocals.  Iím put in mind more of a careworn cockney or Kentish gypsy, imagine if you will, a London Lal Waterson or a trad Lily Allen.  Thereís nothing brittle about this lady. There may be wear and hardship in the voice, but you get the distinct impression sheís actually indestructible.  I suspect a considerable amount of effort has gone into achieving this effect, but it has an immediacy and apparent artlessness that makes compelling listening.

So, itís primitive, itís exciting, but is it a perfect album? For me, yes and no. There is a perfect album on here, but itís too long; for my tastes Iíd have ended with Hasp and left the last three tracks for an EP.  The mood is different, the material is gothically dark, more carefully worked and produced, which risks shattering the illusion of what has gone before. The final track doesnít really sit with the rest of the album.  Itís more of an indie studio experiment, all floaty pads and backwards reverbs.

Which way will they go? The brutal primitivism of the majority of this album is exactly what makes it important, and I sincerely hope the folk scene takes proper note of this band. There is a freshness and directness of communication that no amount of technique can replace. If they can maintain this initial approach, they may just spearhead a new wave of song led folk bands and provide a valuable alternative to the endless folk by numbers albums currently being produced by young and more experienced bands alike.  And thatís important.

From Here is Released Sept 25th on From Here Records.

Stick In The Wheel on tour  (North West Dates)

15 Oct 2015 The Citadel, St Helens, Merseyside
16 Oct 2015 Homegrown Festival/English Folk Expo, Bury

- Jon Loomes


Stick in the Wheel

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