DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show
Sons & Lovers
A Fantastic Cornucopia of English and American Folk Music
Never being a lover of traditional English Country Music The Skiffle Show’s 2013 EP Escape This Wicked Life caught me off-guard and made me slowly fell in love with it. I still can’t pin down what I liked about it; jaunty toe-tapping tunes? Offbeat songs? The singer’s distinctive East-Midlands drawl? Who knows but that EP was a doozy!
Now two years and numerous festivals and gigs later not only their ‘sound’ but their writing has evolved too. The stories here are loosely (very loosely) based around the works of Nottingham lad DH Lawrence and some are even worthy of his pen.
Opening with the quirky You Saw Me Fall which sounds quintessentially English; but very Americana at the same time; perhaps it’s the fiddle playing; but when Stevie-Leigh Goodison effortlessly glides in to sing her parts I couldn’t tell if I was in Mansfield or Boone County.
While I thought I knew their home city of Nottingham, I was surprised by the tone of Every City Needs a Whorehouse; not that I’ve ever looked for one, but I hadn’t realised that one was missing. Don’t take this offbeat song too literally as it was written after a chance encounter with a ‘lady of the night’ who was plying her trade from a churchyard in London. You couldn’t make it up!
As a proud son of a miner I’m a sucker for a coal mining song; and the inspired title track, Sons & Lovers tells a sorry tale of a pitman and his hard-working but lustful life in all its glory. Does he meet a sorry end? I’m not telling.
For what it’s worth any band that includes four different types of banjo, a harmonica and a washboard alongside a funky accordion and someone playing the spoons is always going to be a winner I this house!
For me the tone of the album revolves around the track Vaudeville Show, which opens with a wurlitzer organ followed by Howard Broughton talking about the famous Goose Fayre of years gone by; brandy snap, mushy peas, tattooed ladies, laughter, bare knuckle boxers, dancing bears , a monkey playing a fiddle and…..a Vaudeville Show before the band come in with a gloriously jaunty song about the River of Life and the scene is set for a glorious romp through a bunch of stories that will make you laugh, dance and cry.
Unlike many of their competitors, The Skiffle Show aren’t a band living in the past, as A Needle & The Christ & a Soul proves. A timeless but very contemporary love story worthy of Mr Lawrence himself is played out over some soft harmonica and intense guitar playing accompaniment.
Another tough subject is tackled head on in Drink Another Bottle; and yet again the way they deliver the song belies a dark and very sad story that lurks beneath.
One of the joys of the Nottinghamshire accent is it doesn’t sound like any other; but will hardly be recognised by anyone even 20 miles North or South of the county. So when Al sings Did You Come a’ ramblin M’ Lady, in Lady Chatterley’s Bower he couldn’t come from anywhere else in England; but doesn’t sound like he comes from any where in particular. The song is quite beautiful in it’s own way too.
The only thing that annoys me about this album is, after teasing us with Ms. Goodison’s delightful voice on a couple of harmonies and fills earlier; it is left until the last track before she gets a track of her own; albeit a ‘hidden one’. Dear Lord….what a way to end a record. Stevie-Leigh sounds like a a broken down Angel as she whispers the words to a breathtakingly brittle love song worthy of Nanci Griffith or our very own Sandy Denny. When this song is sung live, there won’t be a dry eye in the house. More from this young lady ASAP…..or else.
Sons & Lovers is not exactly a concept album but more a series of songs based around a theme and again I’ve fallen in love with DH Lawrence & The Vaudeville Skiffle Show all over again even though I shouldn’t have. A bit like a DH Lawrence story?
Released December 11th 2015