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The English Country Blues Band "Unruly" Weekend Beatnik WEBE 9040

The ECBB created in 1981, brought together established and high profile musicians from the then 'folk' scene (it would be called 'roots' now) in an attempt to knock down walls, burn barricades, de-construct myths and prejudices and hey! - have fun, fun, fun 'til daddy took the Martin away. They were a cosmopolitan bunch - a basic trio of rogueish frootster Ian A. Anderson on non-Mississippian vocals and guitar, then-partner Maggie Holland - singer, bassist and various frets and Old Swanner Rod Stradling on melodeons. Obviously talented and unlucky not to have been more celebrated, other regular members such as Chris Coe and Sue Harris added hammered dulcimer, while the late John Maxwell played occasional drums. Guesting on the two albums recorded between 1981 and 1983 were Nic Jones, John Kirkpatrick, Dave Peabody and Danny Stradling and the 21 tracks here come largely from "No Rules" and "Home And Deranged." Their music has flashes of Jimmy Reed, Tom Waits, Robb Johnson and Jimmie Rodgers gloriously blended, simmered on a low light, then served hot to form a really tasty risotto. The Holland-led "Rambling Boys Of Pleasure" for example is truly outstanding.

It's a sound that was perhaps too far ahead of its time - too eclectic for those days when pigeons were still being stuffed into holes. One only has to reflect on the recent success of 'Oh Brother Where Art Thou?' to see how out-of-left-field musical projects can capture public imagination in a way which wouldn't have happened in that distant era of Adam Ant! There's a depth here that was absent from much of the opportunistic music of the time, but it would have been an expensive unit to tour and after three years, the band's myriad creative juices overwhelmed it and a painless, non-lingering passing ensued. A nice touch on this reissue is the addition of a new track - traditional song's oldest blues fan Bob Copper singing 'Diving Duck', bringing it all around and highlighting the UK Folk/US Country/Blues fusion that this band had flagged up in its wilderness years. I think it's great - a worthwhile revisit. Fans of The Rocky Mountain Ploughboys can approach with confidence.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 49 of The Living Tradition magazine.