Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10
Energy is under appreciated, it sometimes gets confused with over confidence or unnatural exuberance, it occasionally can be grating and the waves of the overdone musician. Energy though is natural, the ally of the ear and if it doesn’t get the notes, if it feels as if the musician is holding back, then the ear takes offence and tells the heart to dismiss completely anything that comes from the recorded message.
Energy is everything when it comes to the supple and flexible life within the heart of Folklaw’s album Smokey Joe. Energy is everywhere, it is the blood and the pulse, the driving force that makes the album so unexpectedly divine and gracious; the fiddle is not just on fire, it blazes a trail that even the devil cannot follow, the path only clear for the honest angel to dance down.
The mixture of the intricate protest song coupled with timely beat and demanding attention is silk, it is the cloth of excitement and invited pleasure, the awareness of the words and their power to charm and damn those who believe life to be about the abuse of others, whether in their beliefs or the actions. It is the intricate protest, the relevance of history in the words and the guts to shout about them that makes Smokey Joe an album to sit indoors with the windows splayed fully open and tell each passing person who complains about their perceived version of noise, that this is life, that this is the anger that burns but it is one that is sweet and true.
In songs such as Waterways of England, Lorelei, My Town Revisited and Cradle to the Grave, Folklaw lay down the law, they profess the command and the formula for superbly laid folk and the drama of a well told story.
In the thoughts of Nick Gibbs, Bryn Williams, Gaz Hunt and Martin Vogwell, the four year wait between albums is but a short step in time, for the truth of the tale never really leaves the world, it can be glossed over, it can have others decrying and urging that you forget the anger, but when the dust settles on the falsehood and the sham seen through, the note of the fiddle and mandolin is exactly the reminder of what truly matters in life.
Smokey Joe is the urging of peace but with the fist raised for justice, a dangerously beautiful combination.
Ian D. Hall