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Chris Wood - Albion: An Anthology

Chris Wood, Albion

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

CHRIS Wood has variously been described as a folk traditionalist and “the greatest living English songwriter”. He’s been recording folk since the early ’80s and has worked with the likes of the English Acoustic Collective and Wilson & Carthy.

He now releases Albion: An Anthology, 21 tracks from various solo/duo albums and other projects, including his contribution to Simon Emmerson’s Imagined Village.

If you’ve never heard of Wood and really like the folk scene – and we mean really like the folk scene! – it’s an intriguing entry point.

Wood seldom dresses up his songs. They’re simply delivered, sometimes epic tales of honest personal reflection or political and social commentary.

CD1, in particular, is rife with brutally honest observations on life. Songs like The Shouter, written on a bus coming back from Paris, and Albion are fiercely traditional in composition. They are what the anti-folk movement may single out as reasons why they don’t like the genre.

Folk of late has attempted to re-invent itself and jazz up its image. Wood’s music isn’t concerned with that. As such, it’s refreshingly traditional… sometimes frustratingly so.

Down The Wagon Way, for instance, lasts for over nine minutes and while it includes a lovely outro of folksy instrumentation, it does rather outstay its welcome.

If CD1 represents Wood at his most raw and honest, then CD2 at least attempts to show that folk can be expansive and more ambitious.

Cold Haily Rainy Night is the pick of the album, a multi-layered, albeit six minute epic that fuses traditional folk elements over some Eastern influences. It’s a collaboration with Eliza Carthy and Simon Emmerson that really delivers.

The piano soaked The Land, When The Land Is White With Snow is also quite soothing in its own quiet way… mostly courtesy of Timo Alakotilla’s piano chords and Roger Tallroth’s 12-string guitar. Karen Tweed’s accordian is also quite disarming.

The inclusion of some brass on Mad John is a nice addition, even though Wood’s vocal style does actually get in the way. In fact, as candid as Wood’s songwriting consistently is, the album does tend to work better when allowing the instruments the chance to do the talking.

Over the course of 21 tracks, this is a very long listen and one that really requires its participants to have a fond appreciation for the folk movement. It’s good in places, but in need of a wind up for most of the time. You can easily pick out the high-points.

Download picks: Albion, One In A Million, Cold Haily Rainy Night, The Land, When The Land Is White With Snow, The Taoist Tale

Track listing:
Disc One

  1. The Shouter
  2. I Feel A Smile Coming On
  3. The Colour Of Amber
  4. Albion
  5. Down The Wagon Way
  6. Summerfield Avenue
  7. Lusignac
  8. One In A Million
  9. Hares On The Mountain
  10. The Farmer

Disc Two

  1. Cold Haily Rainy Night
  2. The Land: When The Land Is White With Snow
  3. Mad John
  4. The Mari Llwyd
  5. Valltz Efter Tor Lohne
  6. The Taoist Tale
  7. John Ball
  8. Copernicus
  9. The History Man
  10. Pace Egging
  11. Walk This World With Music