Exposé Online banner

Dave Cousins and Brian Willoughby — Old School Songs
(Witchwoood Media WMCD 2051, 1979/2011, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2013-05-06

Old School Songs Cover artStrawbs was always a band with many faces - both musically and in terms of personnel. Of course, Dave Cousins has been the constant, from the beginnings as a bluegrass cover trio to the heights of prog-rock spectacle to the various reunions that have taken place over the decades. There have always been other songwriters in the band, sometimes even contributing hits, but Cousins' contributions form the core of the band's repertoire. His songs tend to take one of two forms: relatively simple tunes on the standard topics (relationships, mostly), and generally longer storytelling tunes. Both are represented here, and it should come as no surprise that they work perfectly well in this setting, basically two acoustic guitars. Classics from the Strawbs catalog which originally featured full band (or even more) arrangements are revealed for what they always were: folk songs gussied up. So "The Battle," "The Hangman and the Papist," and "Beside the Rio Grande" don't really rely on keyboards, electric guitars, drums and the rest to make them work, just compelling words and an expressive voice. Cousins also reaches back to his earliest days, with "Josephine, for Better or for Worse," as well as some of his non-story songs, like "Hanging in the Gallery" and "Lay Down." This collection, originally recorded in 1980 while Strawbs were inactive and the future was uncertain, can be seen as a precursor to the Acoustic Strawbs tours and recordings that would happen much later. The recording quality is somewhat erratic, though generally quite listenable. The performances are strong, and the lack of overdubs and retakes serves to highlight the performers' talents. For a listener unfamiliar with this music I would recommend starting elsewhere - either the original full-band versions or later Acoustic Strawbs releases - this is a fine addition to the catalog, and a glimpse into the long gap after the release of Deadlines.

Filed under: Reissues, 2011 releases, 1979 recordings

Related artist(s): Dave Cousins, Brian Willoughby

Latest news

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more

2017-05-02
Col. Bruce Hampton RIP – The phrase "He died doing what he loved" is almost a cliche, but in the case of Col. Bruce Hampton, it couldn't be more true. Hampton, who was born Gustav Berglund III, collapsed on stage at his own 70th birthday celebration and later passed away. The event took place at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. » Read more

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Blocco Mentale - POA – Here's an Italian band from 1973 that, instead of taking their cue from the keyboard driven sound of ELP, have more in common with the sound of Jethro Tull, early PFM, maybe Blodwyn Pig, and perhaps...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues