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

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura - Illusion Suite, Sketches, Exit & Ko Ko Ko Ke – Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii is one busy lady – she appears on three of these four releases. Illusion Suite finds her in the standard piano trio setting, though the result is anything but...  (2005) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues