Saturday, March 06, 2010

Album Review - Bellowhead presents Umbrellowhead 6*

This is not a Bellowhead album proper, but rather a roping together of 14 of the other musical projects that the members of Bellowhead are involved in. As a compilation album, it is variable in both style and quality.

At the better end of the scale you have Benji Kirkpatrick performing Wallbreaker (from his Boomerang solo album), a nice tune and decent vocals from the band's guitar/mandolin/banjo/bouzouki player, but Kirkpatrick is also one third of folk trio Faustus and their track on the Umbrellowhead album, The New Deserter, is a bit of a dirge.

Spiers & Boden contribute the opening track from their Vagabond album, and typically of the pair it is a strong folk song, jaunty and doleful in equal measure, Boden appears again with the solo number Beating The Bounds, along with Wallbreaker the best tracks on the album, and Rachel McShane offers The Fisherman from her solo LP No Man's Fool, another good song.

On the less good side though is Maronouchi by the Farmyard Animals Trio, a downbeat tot he point of being funeral modern experimental jazz effort, and Master Kilby by Pete Flood. I am sorry to rubbish two of Flood's contributions because as Bellowheads' drummer he is quite simply one of the best and most inventive percussionists I have seen, and with the almost indescribable Sutsuban Bean Unit he displays his talents to much better effect. SBU are, apparently, Japanese traditional space funk, I don't know what that is, but their track Gujo Ondo has a madcap, smile inducing insanity to it.

The album closes with the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin singing the achingly beautiful Psalm 143.

A real mix of styles and sounds, across and beyond the folk genre, this album is not a good introduction to Bellowhead as a group, but as a sampling of the individual talents making up the whole it is an interesting compilation.

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