The newly-formed Folk Police imprint has already put out some interesting and adventurous releases, but this is the best so far. Given that it’s the result of a collective project of Manchester musicians, it’s consistently powerful, from the group’s wide-ranging instrumental backings to the immediacy of the production.
Taking 10 traditional English and Scottish songs, each sung by a different lead voice, The Woodbine & Ivy Band variously refresh them – or turn them inside out. One moment we get a dreamy, atmospheric steel guitar supporting Spencer The Rover; the next, Alison Gross, sung by Rapunzel & Sedayne, fairly powers along on muscular drums.
There’s also a good range of folk stories on show, interlaced with autumnal, haunting imagery. Gently Johnny has a breathy, restrained lead from Jenny McCormick (assisted by a trumpet and chorus adding a new twist to the song), while the set ends with The Roaming Journey, a powerful, synth-infused tour de force. Displaying a plethora of well-chosen influences, yet never over-used, this stands alongside Laura Marling’s A Creature I Don’t Know as one of the best folk issues in a long time.