Rodc Around the Work! • November; 1976 23

New Folks

Finally it's here! Battle of the Field (Island HELP 25) by the Albion Country Band, formerly thought of as a legend is only available now. The album was originally recorded in 1973, but wasn't released then because the group broke up soon after the album was recorded. However, two tracks from this l.p. saw the light of day as part of the four-record set history of British folk/folk-rock, The Electric Muse (Island/Transatlantic FOLK 1001). These two tracks stirred up so much interest that the album was finally released, although three years after it was originally recorded.

The personnel on Battle of the Field is not the original line-up of the band, but is their third incarnation. Steve Ashley, Royston Wood (ex-Young Tradition), Ashely Hutchings, Simon Nicol (ex-Fairport Convention). Sue Draheim, and Dave Mattacks comprised the original band, but only Hutchings and Nicol from that line-up were involved with the album. At the time of recording, the group included besides Hutchings and Nicol new drummer Roger Swallow, Martin Carthy, John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris. A line-up like that couldn't fail, and the resulting 1.p. was a masterpiece in the British electric-folk tradition.

All of the tracks on Battle of the Field are traditional, save for two Richard Thompson songs written in the British folk style. "Albion Sunrise" and "The New St. George", are two of the best contemporary attempts at writing in the folk tradition. The arrangement of the former, with its acapella chorus evoking the sound of woodwinds in a dance band is quite fetching. "The New St. George" is Richard Thompson's contemporary country dance tune.

"Reaphook and Sickle", sung by Kirkpatrick, is a bouncy little tune featuring the aforementioned on button accordian. The other band members come in for a full vocal complement on choruses and the effect is of being at an olde English country inn when the people from all the country 'round are present having a jolly old time!

Released at the same time on British Island

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1611112 THEOCCI) is an album of recreations of molly dance and border morris tunes. The actual practice of these dance forms has died out, according to Ashley Hutchings' liner notes, but those who wish to explore the roots of Steeleye Span. The Albion Country Band, Fairport Convention. Jack the Lad and the rest will find the 1.p. fascinating. Incidentally, the album is Rattlebone and Ploughjack (Island HELP 24), and Hutchings is the deviser/compiler.

Ashley Hutchings' latest project is The Albion Dance Band, now recording their first album for British Harvest. According to Dave Mattacks, whom I spoke with after a recent Joan Armatrading gig in Washington, D.C., half of the upcoming album will be recorded in front of an audience in a live situation. The other half will be studio recordings with overdubs over "bare backing tracks".

Mattacks himself is a "second division honorary member" of the group. He'll appear on recordings, but as he's in great demand as a session drummer, his concert appearances with the Albion Dance Band will be limited to "whenever I can do the gigs."

At this point the personnel of the group consists of Hutchings. Shirley Collins, Simon Nicol, another drummer, several musicians experienced with early instruments (shawm, rebec, etc.). Eddie Upton (a dance caller), and

John Rodd on concertina and recorder. An album is expected before year's end and a single has already been released.

Records to watch for include a new Sandy Denny solol.p.. and albums by Gay & Terry Woods, The Chieftains, June Tabor, Jack The Lad, and Horslips. Also expected, but early next year, not this year is the first album by Heather and Royston Wood, who're using the name "No Relation". Simon Nicol will be involved and it will be an electric album, another first for these two former members of The Young Tradition. who were a fantastic acapella folk group.

Also worth checking out are Dransfield's The Fiddler's Dream (Transatlantic) a fine album of original tunes with a traditional folk flavor. and Guitar, Vocal (Island) an album featuring the work of Richard Thompson with a good number of previously unreleased tracks. Especially captivating are two cuts recorded live with a band including Linda Thompson, Richard's wife, Dave Mattacks, John Kirkpatrick and Dave Pegg and. of course, Richard himself.

Asleep at the wheel "Wheelin and dealin" Capitol ST-11546

Getting back to one's roots is the thing these days in many circles. If only Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks had stuck it out just a little bit longer, they probably would have ended up with a weekly television show and playing to large crowds everywhere. Of course, in England and Ireland, artists such as Steeleye Span and the Chieftains are enjoying considerable success, and both of these have strong roots in traditional folk music.

Asleep at the Wheel was inspired by the western swing music of the late Bob Wills, the pioneer of the form. Their four albums are filled with western swing and swing flavored versions of other blues and country songs.   -Several members of the band write songs in the western swing style, quite faithful to the original form.

Wheelin' and Dean' is the group's fourth alubm and their best yet. The group performs with a vitality and energy rarely found in today's pop artists, and the clean, crisp production of Tommy Allsup allows this to shine through. Only two of the tracks on the 1.p. are original, however they show an excellent ability to write in the western swing style, and a fantastic absorbtion of the swing feeling. Leroy Preston, vocalist and rhythm guitarist, co-wrote the exuberant "Shout Wa Hey", and was entirely responsible for "If I Can't Love You". Both of those tunes sound as if they could have been part of the Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys repertoire.

Chris O'Connell, a vocalist and rhythm guitarist can put to shame the vast number of female country and country-rock vocalists. She can hold her own with the top line vocalists in the country genre, from Emmylou Harris to Dolly Pardon. For proof, check her work on "The Trouble With Lovin' Today".

One of the striking features of this 1.p. is the use of horns as embellishment on many of the album's cuts. "Shout Wa Hey" and "Route 66" feature fine use of the horns which give the band a rich, full sound and emphasize the jazz/ swing element of the group's music. The horns also serve to emphasize melody lines on the cuts where they're used.

In live performance, the group plays blues, fiddle tunes, a little rockabilly and some more jazzy tunes. However Wheelin' and Dealin' does show a bit of the group's diversity with the inclusion of Doug and Rusty Kershaw's "Cajun Stripper" and the rockabilly flavored "If I Can't Love You".

Recently, I spoke with Leroy Preston who, when asked if one of the group's intentions was to educate people about western swing and associated musical forms replied, "We like to do that.- If western swing again becomes the rage, Asleep at the Wheel will take a large portion of the credit.

Incidentally, the group's live performances are incredible and attendance at one of their gigs is highly recommended.

—Ken Roseman

Blast FromThe Past

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Ifs the perfect story, a journalist's dream: George Benson, strolling the streets of Paris, sees someone writing on a wall "Wes Montgomery is the greatest guitarist who ever lived." Enter the local gendarme; he reads it, slowly shakes his head, and very sternly tells the graffitist: "I'll have to arrest you if you don't erase that . . . and put 'Charlie Christian'."

Now, I know an apocryphal story when I hear one, but George himself told that one in Boston not six months ago, and whether you believe him or not, you have to admire the geometry involved, his linking the three major jazz guitarists in the perfect harmony of an isosceles triangle. The line of succession is clear, the bloodline pure; every day Benson comes closer to the role of popular jazz artist that Montgomery filled so well in the '60s. The main difference between the two is that Wes took the local while George hopped the express.

Before he became the darling of the airwaves, the AM radio king, Montgomery toiled in the backyards of the Indianapolis music scene, working days and creating nights. Years of local playing force an artist to grow and expand, or else die the slow death of familiarity and predictability. Montgomery started playing in 1943; his music at that time maily consisted of solos copped from the albums of Charlie Christian, whose influence

would thread through Montgomery's music until his death in 1968.

After limited touring with small bands, Wes went on the road with Lionel Hampton's band and occupied the rhythm section for two years, 1948-50. The next nine years were devoted to

hometown playing, creative solos, and a few forgotten albums, until Gunther Schuller happened along and promptly shared his discovery with the readers of Jazz Review: "The thing that is most easy to say about Wes Montgomery is that he is an extraordinarily spectacular guitarist. Listening to his solos is like teetering continuously at the edge of a brink. His playing at its peak becomes unbearably exciting, to the point where one feels unable to muster sufficient physical endurance to outlast it . .

Schuller also described the basic Montgomery solo as a three-part movement in which "the first part consists of a single line, primarily melodic ideas at a moderate dynamic; the second part is conceived entirely in 'impossible to play' octaves; while the third section continues on yet another level, in even 'impossibler' block chords." That his words would still apply to Montgomery's work nine years later is a testament to the guitarist's mature consistency as much as the author's insight.

That article in Jazz Review alerted the public to Montgomery's quiet genius. He joined his brothers Buddy and Monk in San Francisco, but his success there was mostly limited to the awed appreciation of musicians and scattered audiences. Wes turned his spare guitarlines, unique chords, and a flawless melodic sense into music of remarkable tone quality and visceral impact. Hearing him, one came to appreciate his grasp of the movement of music from the simple to the complex and back again. Above all, he transfused everything he played with an articulate elegance.

Montgomery's descent into the dark caverns of popular music never diminished his talent for jazz (best sampled on two Milestone albums, Wes and Nies& and While We're Young) and quite possibly was instrumental in elevating popular taste to the relatively precarious heights it now occupies. He could never understand his late surge of popularity, always contending that he played much more in 1952 (not realizing what a disadvantage that could be). His music had a life of its own while it furthered an artistic tradition, and it continues to live today. Wes Montgomery, in his quiet way, would like that; and George Benson, in his turn, will be glad to yield his place on the wall to Wes. And he'd like that,

too.   —John Redmond Carroll

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