The Mekons & Robbie Fulks
A Concept Album Destined For Musical Immortality.
What could possibly go wrong when legendary Folk-Punks the Mekons combine with the Crown Prince of Alt. Country? Well, a Concept Album of sea-faring folk ballads based around an inhospitable and virtually uninhabitable island off Scotland’s West Coast would be one possibility.
In any other hands this Limited Edition, Black Friday, Buy Now While Stocks Last, vinyl only collectors edition would have been filed under ‘One for Oxfam’; but because I am a lifelong fan of the Mekons and Jon Langford coupled with being the proud owner of five Robbie Fulks I had to persevere more than I normally would with a Traditional Folk album; and that perseverance has finally paid off.
The album opens with a mournful church organ on A Fearful Moment; and when the male voice and a sad fiddle enter like a thick fog; you know you listening to something very different; but different in a good way. A Fearful Moment sets the scene perfectly for the following bleak and mysterious sea-shanties and doleful Folk songs.
While the album is primarily English (NOT Celtic) Folk music with a cutting edge; Robbie Fulks contributions manage to have an early ‘Country’ feel to them without actually being Hillbilly or Bluegrass; with Refill being a very fine song indeed and it all adds the melting pot of this song-cycle.
Although Jon Langford fan of many years, the highlights here for me, are the Sally Timms songs Shine on Silver Seas which is so haunting and atmospheric it should be heard in a flickering half light to get the best effect; and later, on I Am Come Home, her soft voice and the Celtic fiddle sound ethereal and timeless; willing the listener to lean into the speaker to hear her tearful words.
Langford comes into his own on the contemporary shanty The Last Fish in the Sea; which is sort of a modern take on the Moby Dick story; but with guitars and a wailing harmonica.
The album closes as it begins with another mournful song; Go From My Window; only this time it is Sally Timms pouring her heart out over the church organ and a fiddle that is so sad even the Devil will have a tear in his eye as the song fades to a close.
Jura isn’t what I expected at all and at face value not to my taste; but I stuck with it and discovered a whole new miserable world that I’ve now fallen in love with.
Released November 27th 2015 (Limited Edition Vinyl) plus Download.