Strawbs seem to have been around, in one way or another, forever and it no surprise that they celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2019. What is a surprise to many is just how relevant this album is and how good the quality of the writing and playing.
The album was recorded – due to Covid restrictions – remotely and without a single face to face meeting between the band members but you really wouldn’t know it from listening to the album. Now this use of technology is becoming more and more common to younger and tech-savvy musicians but it is remarkable that a band with this much time served in the business should be as able in the use of technology as those far younger.
Dave Cousins says of the album "The lyrics reflect the times we have been living through: 'Once we went dancing through quicksilver days', or 'What the autocrats are selling you is Sturm und Drang', or 'All bear witness, come together, we are everyone'. I'm immensely proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Cousins voice is not exactly as strong as it was all those years ago but his trembling and tremulous vocal style is shockingly effective as the band unravel songs that are particularly appropriate to the conditions in the world today, really hitting the mark on the title track and the fabulous ‘We Are Everyone’ with a guest vocal by Cathryn Craig. My personal favourite track is ‘Champion Jack’ – a tale of a 1930s boxer but also a metaphor for a whole generation of British working men in the 30’s and 40’s – intense and powerful but without any overblown power or tricksiness.
The rest of the band is Dave Lambert, Chas Cronk, Dave Bainbridge & Tony Fernandez. The whole thing was produced by Blue Weaver – a member of the band back in the seventies.
This isn’t about strident political statements as much as it is about a genuine concern for the sudden direction the world has moved in and the album is really effective because of it.
I really enjoyed the last album ‘The Ferryman’s Curse’ from 2018 but this seems to have the band at a higher standard even than that. A really fine album made in difficult circumstances.