Jon Boden is best known as the leader of English folk band Bellowhead. This new album, his fourth solo work, is more diverse in sound and feel than his former group, despite relying at least partly on traditional songs. ‘Rose in June’, which Boden acknowledges hearing through the work of Lou Killen, opens the album and has an air of Runrig about it.
The next couple of pieces start with electric guitar riffs that give way to string pieces, backing up Boden’s assertion that he wants his eleven piece Remnant Kings to be a “rock band that could transform into a string quartet mid-set”. If this sounds unlikely it really does work, particularly on the instrumental ‘Leviathan’. The Ewan McColl song ‘Sweet Thames Flow Softly’ is given the sort of treatment you can imagine Springsteen trying. The only misstep on the album is the concertina-driven cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’. There are too many words and not enough space for the music.
Boden rearranges three songs from his previous album ‘Songs From The Floodplain’ for the big band sound of the current Remnant Kings. ‘Going Down To The Wasteland’ and ‘We Do What We Can’ working particularly well. The latter song features, as does much of the album, some fine electric guitar playing from Richard Warren. The strings add a touch that mixes Celtic and Appalachan on ‘Rigs of the Time’ and closer ‘Carnival Hornpipe’ which acts a pleasant coda to the rest the album. The mix of instruments and styles means that ‘Rose In June’ doesn’t become stale after a few listens. It also makes a good bridge between contemporary folk and the more traditional sound and would make a good introduction to current folk music. The most negative thing that can be said about the whole album is that surely he had a better photo for the cover.