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Bellowhead – Hedonism

Jo Cox


I’ve spent the past two weeks trying to come up with criticisms of Bellowhead but I just can’t do it. I love them. They’re uninhibited, joyous music producing monsters that leave you with a guilty smile from ear to ear. And although their albums have always fallen short of replicating their live energy I still struggle to find any real fault. When you’re dealing with a band who’ve won Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards an unparalleled 4 consecutive times you almost have to accept that capturing this essence in a studio is impossible and also, somewhat irrelevant.

Hedonism is no exception, although it does go someway towards bridging the gap. Instantly it’s clear that there’s less polish, more inflections in the vocal and producer John Leckie seems to have teased out some of the live energy (or maybe there’s just something in the water down at Abbey Road Studios). In fact its entire construction seems to replicate a live set, and no holds barred Bellowhead romps such as Broomfield Hill and A-Begging I Will Go with their distinctive brass riffs, frenzied percussion and sawing string accompaniment set against Little Sally Racket and a reworking of Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam rise and fall with all the same intensity.

My one and only criticism is that whilst humming the tune to Yarmouth Town I often find myself singing the lyrics from that old favourite London Town. Where Cross Eyed And Chinless simply provides the same kind of virtuostic instrumental that Sloe Gin did on their debut, by the end of the record they seem to have taken the idea of sticking with a format that works and, dare I say, abused it? Nevertheless, this is still a corker of an album and not just for folk fans. Whilst I have the biased advantage of falling in love with their live shows rest assured their latest recorded offering packs a satisfying punch. Oh, and if you haven’t yet embraced the Bellowhead experience, by now you should have some idea what you’re missing.