Exposé Online banner

Strawbs — The Ferryman's Curse
(Esoteric Recordings Antenna 5013929477032, 2017, CD)

by Jon Davis, 2018-01-24:

The Ferryman's Curse Cover art

The list of bands which got their start in the 60s and are still recording new music is getting shorter every year, and few of them have maintained their level of creativity like Strawbs. Stylistically, they’re breaking no new ground with The Ferryman’s Curse, instead presenting a solid continuation of their classic sound from albums like Grave New World and Hero and Heroine. I’ve lost track of how many studio albums they’ve released — and it’s maybe not even possible to give a definitive answer with things like Heartbreak Hill in the mix — but whatever the number is, this one surely goes in the top portion for quality and enjoyability. In spite of the touches of progressive rock they’re known for, Strawbs has always been a songwriter’s band, and all of the Mellotrons and grand instrumental passages, wonderful as they are, are not the core of the band’s style. Dave Cousins remains the guiding force in this respect, with Dave Lambert contributing only one composition this time out. For both primary songwriters (bassist Chas Cronk and keyboardist Dave Bainbridge get some collaborative credits as well) lyrics are central, and these are stellar as always, full of intriguing characters, stories, and turns of phrase, even in seemingly simple songs. The title track is a fine entry onto the list of Cousins’ epic story-songs, a supernatural tale of great drama and ambiguous meaning. Just the way we like it. For longtime Strawbs fans, there is much to love, and Bainbridge’s keyboards are just right, balancing big sounds with delicate moments, and featuring a lot of eerie Mellotron in addition to piano and organ. Whether The Ferryman’s Curse will appeal to new listeners I can’t say — I’ve been listening to them much too long to hazard a guess — but certainly this effort can stand with pride on the shelf next to the peaks of the 70s.


by Peter Thelen, 2018-01-24:

The long awaited new studio album from British veteran folk-rockers Strawbs is one that most listeners will surely find to be worth the wait. It’s been a good five years since Hero & Heroine In Ascencia, which is the last one I remember, and that was essentially re-recorded older material by the then-current edition of the band. The Ferryman’s Curse features ten all new compositions with a renewed energy and sense of purpose. Interestingly, this one wasn’t released on Witchwood Media, the Strawbs usual label, but instead on Esoteric Antenna. The band this time features longtime vets Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert singing and playing guitars, veteran bassist Chas Cronk, and drummer Tony Fernandez, who has been with the band off and on for many years. The new face this time is keyboardist and guitarist Dave Bainbridge (from Iona), not just sitting in, but a full member with composition credits on half of the cuts herein. The keyboard-dominated opening instrumental “In the Beginning” leads directly into the powerful and heavy “The Nails from the Hands of Christ,” one of many thoughtful lyrics here that could only be written and sung by Dave Cousins. For this track, the lyrics progress over a more fundamental bass and drum figure, each verse opening for instrumental breaks for Bainbridge and Lambert. Speaking of Lambert, no Strawbs album would be complete without at least one of his compositions, and here it is “The Ten Commandments,” a bluesy rock groover that delivers the goods, as well as a greasy guitar solo, a true standout among the album’s more progressive rock and gentler and folkier cuts. Among those more acoustic driven songs, “The Song of Infinite Sadness” may be the high water mark, with lyrics and music by Cousins alone, with a beautiful arrangement. “Bats and Swallows,” is another Cousins piece that puts together additional elements including a bright electric guitar melody and some fine bouzouki embellishments from Bainbridge. So what about the prog, you may ask? The “Nails” suite that opens the disc certainly qualifies, as well as the title track and its intro “The Reckoning,” accounting for about eleven minutes of dreamy progressive sounds alternating with powerful rock, all supported by outstanding lyrics, but for my own ears the seven minute “When the Spirit Moves” is the album’s brightest gem, pulling the folk and prog elements together into a lush orchestrated whole, that surely will remind some of the band’s classic title suite from Ghosts, or “Autumn” from its predecessor. “We Have the Power” closes the album nicely, opening with blasts of Mellotron, and building over a positive and hopeful lyric sung by Cousins, intertwined with great guitar and keyboard soloing. All taken, this is the band in top form.


Filed under: New releases , 2017 releases

Related artist(s): Dave Cousins, Strawbs, Dave Bainbridge, Dave Lambert

More info

Latest news

2020-03-24
Bill Rieflin RIP – The sad news reaches us today of Bill Rieflin's death. Rieflin was best known as a drummer in bands ranging from post-punk to industrial to indie-rock to progressive rock, including work with The Blackouts, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Land, and King Crimson. Rieflin had been battling cancer for several years, and succumbed to it on March 24. He was 59. » Read more

2020-03-17
Cruise to the Edge and Seaprog 2020 Festivals Postponed – The worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus has started to produce casualties in the music festival world, and music festivals are not immune. We've had word that both the Cruise to the Edge (originally slated for March 27 - April 1) and Seaprog (originally June 5-7) have been postponed to later dates, with those dates to be announced. » Read more

2020-03-06
McCoy Typer RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of one of the most influential pianists in the history of jazz, McCoy Tyner. His tenure with John Coltrane in the early 60s includes some of the most treasured recordings of the era, including My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. After leaving Coltrane's group, he had a long and successful solo career. He was 81. » Read more

2020-02-18
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Eleanor Hovda - Coastal Traces – Hovda is an important, yet little known composer who has been active on the contemporary music scene for over twenty years, mostly through live performances, scores for dance companies (of which...  (1999) » Read more

Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa – It’s been amusing to read the attempts of reviewers in the alternative / independent press to write about this album. They find the music so strange that they have difficulty describing it, even...  (2006) » Read more

Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette - Whisper Not – Recorded in mid-1999 in Paris, Whisper Not is the first recording of the trio since Jarrett took a health break in 1997 and 1998. He suffered from CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). To do a whole gig...  (2001) » Read more

Hopper Picard Franklin Hayward - Numero d'vol – Hugh Hopper hardly ever misses an opportunity for a group improvisation. Given his time spent with sax player Simon Picard doing Soft Machine tributes and keeping tabs on keyboardist Steve Franklin...  (2008) » Read more

Bill Rieflin - Birth of a Giant & Rieflin / Fripp / Gunn - The Repercussions of Angelic Behavior – For most of us not up on the hip, modern pop world, Bill Rieflin was the drummer for Ministry, a type of gothic downer band known for their stark imagery. What you probably wouldn't suspect is...  (2000) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues