Whilst I’ve worked out how to do this here blogging lark I’ve got another album I’ve been hammering lately to muse upon. It’s one I’ve been waiting to hear for what feels like ages.

I’ve made no secret of my love of McDermott’s 2 Hours in the past – so relatively new release Besieged was a very exciting prospect and it’s not disappointed. A collaboration with the aforementioned along with Levellers and Oysterband, it’s a long overdue sequel to excellent similar co-creations – the last one I think was Disorder way back in 2004… gosh, that makes me feel old! This could well be the full-stop for McDermott’s 2 Hours.

And sure enough, it’s a fitting epitaph (of sorts – I don’t think Nick is hanging up his metaphorical creative boots for other projects).

It kicks off with the barnstorming Firebird, fiddle-driven and bouncing from the off with Nick Burbridge‘s inimitable vocal delivery setting down a strong marker. I absolutely adore both Nick’s lyrical skill (and Jeremy’s in the case of this song) and his delivery. This is a great example of both working in wonderful harmony with the expert instrumentation from the band – drenched in themes of some kind of renewal, characterised of course by a firebird, which is a phoenix, innit?

Erin Farewell is possibly a nod to the traditional Irish reel of similar name, it’s melodic and pleasing – I’m sitting nodding along as I type. A lament to people displaced yet still yearning for their homeland – reprised from McDermott’s album Anticlockwise. This Child is immediately rockier and more urgent, electric guitars more prominent and much more plaintive vocals and disruptive instrumentation in the chorus – inspired by an unsolved murder in Manchester in 2006.

The Last Mile is another swaying number with a chugging bass-line, it has quite a jaunty feel to it but the message more disappointed in people’s intransigence to rising up to protest as we perhaps once would have in bleak political times past. Forlorn Hope picks up the pace again – drums lead into fiddle-led instrumentation again with clever lyrical pacing and wording covering imperial duplicity in Ireland.

All That Fall starts acapella and is gently joined by the band at a slow plodding pace, leaving you to focus on the words – gaining depth and intensity of instrumentation as the song builds. A message of strength in overcoming abuse and trying to prevent that recurring for future generations. The Warrior Monk starts with fiddle then builds into rocky guitar driven riffs, themed around the bloody legacy of Western religious meddling in the Middle East.

Crossed Lines is a real slow gentle paced effort – and at first we don’t have Nick on vocals to start with – but it’s Molly Burbridge who opens with a charmingly lamentful delivery. Literally a daughter and father dialogue – it’s beautiful and heartbreaking in the same breath. Title track Besieged picks up the pace again – a life story charted by relationships, and life struggles framed in the language of war and battle.

The Damned Man’s Polka starts with a drum-roll and then into a rapidly delivered almost-rant, with awesome instrumental interludes – themes of religious brainwashing, but with the silver-lining of resistance by the end. All In Your Name kicks in with a swirling introduction sticks with the religious theme, with some vivid imagery evoked – damning and angry, all with a really tubthumping backing track.

Ken Bonsall, Nick Burbridge and Jeremy Cunningham – a complicated venn diagram of recent excellent collaborations!

The Ring gives some needed calm – the opening vocals overlay gentle keyboards and fiddle – the lyrics bring forth metaphorical landscape imagery with a sad refrain, ultimately referencing something marriage-related but who knows? The flute/whistles that appear part way through are stunning though. The song threatens to ‘kick in’ a few times – but retains its sedate pace throughout to ease the album to a close with a lovely gentle instrumental with fiddle and flute/whistles combining beautifully.

There’s the juxtaposition of bleak themes with wonderfully evocative melodies and the kind of clever lyrical devices and delivery that always make me find new things to think on each listen, but underpinning most of all is the potential for some kind of redemption for all of the world’s woes.

And you kind of have to hold on to that when you’re contemplating this crazy world of ours, don’t you? Maybe that’s just me being a perpetual optimist.

A stunning spiritual and musical voyage – and better yet, comes with a bonus CD of McDermott’s 2 Hours Anticlockwise which might be a duplicate for me, but might not be for you – this is also a fabulous collection of songs that serves as a wonderful introduction to a band who provided a foundational influence certainly to Levellers and probably beyond. It’s available to buy via On The Fiddle.

Of course, writing about a Nick Burbridge project of course is another neat teaser for forthcoming musings on Ferocious Dog‘s soon-to-be-released fourth album which includes a collaboration with him. Watch this space!



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