Has it really been 5 years since the last bout of Brassmonkeying? 2004’s Flame of Fire seems like yesterday, but Howard Evans (trumpet etc) has died in that time, so the occasional wonder that is Brass Monkey is without one of its founder members.
However, Brass M. is still a rumbustious, English, manly (in the nicest possible sense) racket with its roots firmly planted in the immense knowledge of the tradition and integrity of its stellar members.
Building around Martin Carthy’s unmistakeable guitar/voice and
John Kirkpatrick’s equally distinctive bellows (box and lungs!) are all manner of brass and other wind instruments, capable of both a glorious din and/or a sensitive, almost imperceptible accompaniment. It’s not all large-men-leaping-about Morris tunes, although there are some such. There’s a particularly plangent trumpet (I think) intro to The Trees they Do Grow High, then sung by Martin C. to a tune I’ve never heard before – apparently from a Vaughan Williams cylinder recording. It’s an unusual and affecting version of the well known “married to a boy who’s too young, who dies” story. Keeping up the bouncier side of things, John Kirkpatrick sings The Press Gang – which has an unexpected happy ending and a melody that sounds like it came straight off John K’s own hilarious Carolling and Crumpets CD. Overall, on this collection, John K. does the jollity and Martin C. the sad-and-sensitive!
There’s a nice nod back to the much-missed Evan’s slightly more distant past with another stomping version of The Radstock Jig, which appeared on Home Service’s Alright Jack, with a 42-year-old Howard providing much of the brassy oomph … a tasteful touch on a fine CD dedicated to an outstanding musician – and nice bloke. RIP, Howard. Unless you are one of these odd people who think that, all the way from Home Service to Brass Monkey, brass has no place in folk music, you’ll love this mixture of danceable tunes, variously robust and haunting songs.