This is the way modern folk seems to be; on the move interweaving different traditions, not linked to one place or rigidly labelled as appropriate for a certain bunch of people.
I like Rob St John’s stuff; he’s always inventive in what he does, and always looking to marry his intelligent take on folk music with his penchant for the unexpected. That he does so repeatedly and successfully and with no little wit is one of the reasons why we like writing about his music. This new single, Charcoal Black and the Bonny Grey, is no exception: a traditional Lancs folk song reinterpreted with the help of a feisty mini-choir in an Edinburgh sitting room. This is the way modern folk seems to be; on the move interweaving different traditions, not linked to one place or rigidly labelled as appropriate for a certain bunch of people.
The A side is incredibly redolent of that slating and incessant rain you’d get in a place like Rossendale. And there’s a suitably watery, fluid feel to the sound on this record, loose, slightly bucolic, the fiddle appropriately scratchy and the backing chorus sounding agreeably frayed. Shallow Brown is also bucolic but is much more meditative and hints at darker things, a West Indian sea shanty that St John looks to trace via Sunderland Point, the place up the Lune Estuary (and still a desolate spot at that) where a lot of the slave trade’s recruiters (read press gangs) were active in the 18th century.
Give it a spin: well worth your time.