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(55:18; Towers Open Fire)
I can pretty much guarantee that the vast majority of listeners will have not have heard of this band, but at the same time I can also state I am sure that everyone will have heard of at least one musician in the band, as this is a collaboration between Judge Smith (vocals) and Brakeman (guitar, bass, vocals). Smith was of course co-founder of prog legends Van der Graaf Generator and will always be kinked with that band and his long-time relationship with Peter Hammill, but over the course of his career he has also released 13 studio albums and DVDs. Brakeman was originally bassist with bands such as Discobolus and Jeffery Lee Pierce, before turning his attention to the guitar and developing a unique open-tuned technique. They are joined on this album by cellist Gerry Barnett on four songs and Tim Gallagher, percussion, on two. Here is an album which I confess to enjoying immensely from the first song to the very last. In some ways it reminds me of Davey Dodds of Red Jasper, sometimes Roy Harper, sometimes Captain of the Lost Waves, and is a very English album in every respect. Judge’s vocals are distinctive, clear, and direct, and the delicate lush bass combined with wonderful picked acoustic guitars is the perfect accompaniment. There is a power and strength within Judge’s vocals which belies his years, easily moving into falsetto when he needs to be, as he displays the storytelling technique for which he has long been known. The debut may have only been out for a few months but apparently most of the next one had already been recorded prior to Covid striking, which also stopped the live performances which is normally just the two of them, so hopefully we will not have to wait too long for the next one. Judge and Brakeman endorse ‘432 tuning’, in which the note ‘A’ is tuned to 432 Hz as opposed to standard ‘Concert Pitch’ of 440 Hz and Judge has discovered that when singing in this tuning, his vocal technique, range and stamina were greatly enhanced. Certainly, at times this is a very wordy album, yet there are no apparent issues with breath control, and this folky acoustic album is bright, clear, and simply great fun. While some people may investigate this solely due to the VDGG connection, this should be sought out by all those looking for music which is honest, direct, and wonderfully powerful while also maintaining a real beauty.
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