Bostin’ Days album review..
I was dead excited when Bostin’ Days was announced. A compilation of covers of Levellers songs – who are the root node of pretty much all my musical loves – performed by loads of my favourite performers many of whom have become friends. Then I got scared. Like many fans I guess Levs songs are precious to me – what if I didn’t like them? What if I didn’t like them and the artist in question was somebody I knew? What if it was all just a terrible idea?
Luckily Addie isn’t as big a worrier as me – and his drive and passion along with the folk who’ve been helping him has seen the project come through to fruition finally, and it’s an absolute triumph. I’ve not been able to stop listening to it – a four hour plus round trip on a Sunday would normally be a bind, but last weekend it meant I got to listen to it through twice – and suddenly hold-ups on the way to work are a bit more tolerable because it might mean that I get to squeeze in another couple of tracks before reaching the office.
Of course, we should start with the mission of the project – and that was to raise money for the Devon Air Ambulance. This came about in the wake of an accident at Beautiful Days last year where the service was mobilised to airlift a couple of injured folk to hospital. The idea of the album was conceived to raise money for the charity, and there’s also an accompanying live event which you’d be a fool to want to miss, in Nuneaton in October.
Thirty tracks spanning two discs is the treat you have in store on getting your mits on the CD – I must admit I did start to scan through the artists I’ve come to know and love first, but it’s a great listen in the intended order too. A mixture of styles and interpretations, voices and instruments taking the very familiar and putting their own twist on it. Whilst there’s of course a variation there’s not a duff track on there – and there’s some absolute stunners.
I’m not going to go through every track, because that would take too long and you would fall asleep – but call out a few that have really grabbed me, and possibly driven by a little bit of biasedness in knowing the performers so they perhaps piqued my interest more. That’s not to say I’ve not enjoyed every single one of them because I have – numerous times now, and I can’t see it getting shunted from my playlist for a while – maybe not until a certain band gets their album out!
The opening track is Fifteen Years performed by The Leylines and it’s a belting start, it stays slow-paced interminably before finally ‘kicking in’ at the end, teasing you with the promise of a dance and finally delivering before the song is through. I really enjoyed the Leylines supporting Ferocious Dog in Exeter so can’t wait to get to see them again (ooh, Farmer Phil’s just round the corner – get in! There’s a lot of Bostin’ Days acts at Farmer Phil’s – and then of course lots more still playing the live date in October).
The Fanzines have been playing 100 Years of Solitude in recent festival appearances so it wasn’t a surprise to hear it on the album but it’s a great interpretation – certainly live the violin refrains are performed on guitar, on the record I think I detect a mandolin in there too, along with the chugging bass, drums and growling vocals it’s one of the real highlights for me on the album. Scott Doonican chills us back down with a lovely rendition of When Love Runs Out Of Time with FD Dan accompanying on fiddle – you should also check out this, in my opinion, even more beautiful performance of it at one of his recent One Man Show dates.
Shanks’ Pony deliver a moving cover of No Change – Paul’s sombre but melodic singing perfectly balanced along the lovely musical accompaniment – it’s one of those songs I’ve not heard in a while so it was a doubly welcome remind because it is a beauty. Pete and Lynn deliver an almost medieval sounding interpretation of The Road, with Lynn’s flute (or maybe a tin-whistle) taking the place of the fiddle to brilliant effect along with some tinkly piano accompaniment. It’s charming. I’ve not seen Pete play in ages, and to my shame never seen Lynn perform – I must remedy that!
Gaz Brookfield contributes his take on The Boatman – he’s not really deviated from the original but of course he’s lent his own voice to it, and predictably great guitar skills, leading neatly into a definitely reimagined The Devil Went Down T’Barnsley from inimitable Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican. It’s been a favourite in recent live sets too – not least at Deerstock with Tom taking to the stage to play the devil and ending up substituting for Scott for the bar-surf due to time constraints.
On to the second CD and Brad Dear delivers a strangely sombre sounding Together All The Way (listed amusingly as In This Together on the tracklisting). As Brad normally belts out songs it’s quite nice to hear slightly more subdued singing style from him.
Ferocious Dog are next up (yes, I did listen to this track first!) – and their choice of Another Man’s Cause got me properly nervous when I got the CD. That’s the song that hooked me into the Levellers back on a school geography trip when I’d swapped tapes with a friend for my walkman and got a recording of the Levs playing in Preston Guild Hall. So to have Ken, Dan and Ellis – who also mean a great deal to me – tackle that is like seeing two of your best mates start seeing each other, and desperately hoping it doesn’t all go horribly wrong.
Fortunately it really doesn’t – it’s beautifully done. To further confound stereotypes they play it slower than the Levellers and it’s a poignant and lovely performance. I dropped Ken a text after I heard it to say how much I loved it, he told me Dan had chosen the song as it resonates with so much with events that have affected them – it’s just a shame they’ll probably never do it live as they have a tour date that clashes with the Bostin’ Days live evening. It would lovely to hear.
You wouldn’t think tracks from Hello Pig would loom large on here, but there’s a couple actually – and one is delivered by one man virtuoso and causer of bonobo-based obsessions Funke And The Two Tone Baby – choosing The Weed That Killed Elvis which he delivers in his own inimitable style by layering beatboxing along with his guitar, harmonica and vocal layers results in something eerily not far off the strange musical direction that particular era took the Levellers in.
Folk the System offer a rowdy and lively cover of What You Know to get the feet stomping, Doozer – renowned for fun and feel-hoodedness – chimes in with a surprisingly serious choice of Battle of the Beanfield delivered with appropriate vitriol the subject matter demands – and The Star Botherers have delightfully reimagined probably the Levellers best known song of Beautiful Day in their own style to brilliant effect. I really hope they add it to their live set as it would be such good fun to dance around a field or pub to!
However, there’s an absolute show-stopper on here too – Maelor Hughes should take a bow for taking on Elation – it’s such a mesmeric and beautiful song that it takes a brave person to choose it to cover. But it’s absolutely sublime – with an ethereal introduction and swirling sounds before the delicate guitar work that he’s always going to excel at kicks in and the dreamy vocals – it’s absolutely wonderful, definitely my favourite track of the compilation, and that’s high praise indeed. As Scott opined on a Facebook thread, Lancashire 1, Yorkshire 0.
A fantastic journey through a selection of Levellers songs – and I’ve only really scratched the surface in describing the selection of tracks that I have – there’s so much more for you to discover here delivered with reverence, passion and no little skill. If you’ve not picked yourself up a copy yet then you are really missing out on not only helping out a fantastic cause but on a wonderful collection of music too. Get it bought!