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

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Hans Reichel & Eroc - The Return of Onkel Boskopp – Careful. This is Hans Reichel; not to be confused with another German experimentalist - Achim Reichel. The Reichel featured here is known for constructing home made string instruments, and performing...  (1999) » Read more

JPP - Artology – Just when you thought you'd had enough of Nordic fiddles, along comes this little gem from Finland. I like Scandinavian folk music as much as the next guy — probably more, actually — though I'll...  (2008) » Read more

David Helpling & Jon Jenkins - The Crossing – Around three years ago, Helpling and Jenkins’ initial collaboration Treasure (reviewed in # 35) initiated the journey that continues here – not just a protraction or sequel, but an...  (2011) » Read more

Present - Live! – Present is back in black. When we last heard from this Belgian band — 1995's studio reformation disc COD Performance, the lineup consisted only of Roger Trigaux and his son Reginald, both on...  (1997) » Read more

Jon Hassell - Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street – Jon Hassell's first ECM recording as a leader is long overdue, but it is an understated ambient percussion mix consistent with the acclaimed trumpet player’s most pervasive recordings. Tone...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues