Album Review: Bird in the Belly – The Crowing

It’s always a pleasure to see new exciting artists take the tradition and shake it up. A need to inject new life in to decades old material for a new generation to appreciate is exactly how the tradition survives – and for Brighton based collective Bird in the Belly – their debut album ‘The Crowing’ is jam packed with songs either never heard in that guise before…..or never even been recorded.

A meeting of like minded musicians, folk singer Jinnwoo, already established alt-folk duo Hickory Signals, multi instrumentalist Tom Pryor and visual artist Epha Roe, at the home of the English Folk, Song and Dance Society – Cecil Sharp House, already puts the act in a pretty strong position to succeed! After months of research for material to put to music – the result is a hugely emotive record incorporating swirling voices, interesting musical accompaniment on a plethora of instruments – all guiding the cause of education, interpretation and celebration of these forgotten songs and words.

Jinnwoo has a tortured, weathered vocal style that almost weeps the lyrics. The other vocalist on here, Laura Ward – one half of the outstanding Hickory Signals duo, has a voice that reminisces of great singers past – Prior, McShee, Bunyan – yet the raw power drives this ‘new’ material forwards, literally belting it in to the 21st century at times.

‘Give Me Back My Heart Again’ is a sublime opener – an unaccompanied vocal beginning showcase both incredible singers before the band kick in half way through to establish just what sort of sound this act can achieve in full flow.

‘Verses of Daniel Good’ is as catchy a murder ballad as you’ll hear in your life, and ‘Duke of Grafton’ soars dynamically both vocally and instrumentally in such a weaving, whimsical way, by the end you’ve listened to without doubt the showpiece of this record.

But – to be honest….I could name the lot as highlights, which is why I strongly advise you listen to this in full and treat it as a piece of work that needs time and attention to appreciate – because if you do that, you may agree with me that if a better traditionally inspired folk record is released this year – I’d be amazed. This album is THAT good. Buy it. Buy it now.

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Review by Phil Daniels

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