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PILGRIMSí WAY - Stand & Deliver

PILGRIMSí WAY - Stand & Deliver
Talking Cat Recordings TCCD1748

This is, to use an old school phrase, a concept album – a dozen songs regarding the careers, crimes and come-uppances of highwaymen. Eleven are drawn from the tradition: they range from the obvious (Adieu Adieu, Turpin Hero) to the obscure and neglected (Robin Hood & The Bishop, or the lovely Elms Of Tyburn). The timespan is impressive too – the opening, startling Caveat For Cutpurses is a rant by Ben Johnson, thence we are highjacked via the 13th back to the 18th century, and then transported to the 1980s. Yes, the title track is what you expect it to be, but very much not what you expect it will be. It’s like riding with Dr Who in a mask and tricorn hat.

The songs are structured to tell a tale – from cautionary catches to goodnight ballads, with some remarkable villainy between. The four vocalists are driven by vibrant arrangements that embrace everything from medieval (crumhorn, hurdy gurdy, curtal) to the modern (electric bass, guitars and – blimey - vocoder). The vocal sound swells with the addition of a huge list of fellow singers that concludes “and the entire membership of Commoners Choir”.

It's a joyous evocation of skulduggery, taken, in the main, at a pace that would make The Ramones proud, but not without some rapturous pauses for breath. The approach, in terms of performance and production, is totally upfront and as in your face as a primed flintlock. It’s a mighty, take-no-prisoners piece of work, joyous and hugely entertaining fun, a case of the Devil having all the best songs, methinks.

The track note on the final track (the aforesaid title Stand & Deliver) concludes: “Let’s be honest, it’s the only reason you’ve bought this album.” That may be true but it is certainly not the reason you’ll want to keep listening to it. A dozen great songs that live up to the title – a sound musical investment and in no way daylight robbery. Da diddley qua qua.

Nigel Schofield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 121 of The Living Tradition magazine.