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

2020-07-22
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

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Ozric Tentacles - Arborescence – With Arborescence Ozric Tentacles have their fifth studio effort in as many years. As usual the texturing of the soundscape remains their focus and their foremost strength. Alarmingly unique in...  (1994) » Read more

Fluxury - Perishable Goods – This is also labeled “Part One of the Privacy Suite” – whatever that means. Musically, it’s a kind of well-crafted prog-pop concept work, heavy on keyboards, featuring both male and female...  (2006) » Read more

Semiramis - Dedicato a Frazz – Originally released on the rare Trident label, Semiramis have a very high reputation, and with good reason – their only album is a superb classic, and one of the most essential of the 70s...  (1995) » Read more

Jester's Crown - Above the Storm – Forget about the jester, it's not neo-prog or any other sort of music one would normally associate jesters with. JC is a very promising four-piece from the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, playing what...  (1996) » Read more

Eleni Karaindrou - Elegy of the Uprooting – Karaindrou may be best known for her film scoring work since the early 80s in her native Greece. Elegy is a sprawling two-disc live set recorded at Megaron in Athens in March 2005; it collects a...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues