This review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here
Following two previous albums (2011’s Wayside Courtesies and 2016’s Red Diesel) north west-based band Pilgrims’ Way are back with a third. There has been a line-up change since the last one, with Jude Rees now joining Tom Kitching, Edwin Beasant and Jon Loomes, but there has been no let-up in the band’s trademark vigour and verve.
Stand and Deliver is a concept album of sorts, that brings together a selection of traditional highwayman songs, always a rich and enduring source of material in English folk.
The album promises fifty different instruments across its eleven tracks and we hear oboe, bagpipes, flutes, recorders, hurdy gurdy, Jews’ harp, harmonica, concertina and melodeon, to name a few, as well as guitars, bass, drums and percussion.
In addition, the band cite almost as diverse a list of musical genres influencing their interpretations as they do instruments; from classic-era folk rock, through to Madchester, doom metal, disco and West End musicals.
The juxtaposition of the vocals of the three male members of the band alongside new member, Jude Rees, also adds to that sense of variety and contrast.
It is an ambitious project, for sure, and there could be a danger of something like this lacking coherence but the enthusiasm of the band and their combined musical talents definitely carry it through.
Material-wise, there is plenty that many folk fans will be familiar with, but the band definitely put their own stamp on well-known songs like Ibson, Gibson, Johnson and Cadgwith Anthem.
A sonically-menacing Saucy Bold Robber, with an arrangement inspired by a folk take on doom metal with some great vocals from Rees, is also another highlight.
The album finishes up with a spirited, tongue-in-cheek cover of the 1981 chart hit Stand and Deliver. How could any album about dandy highwaymen fail to pay tribute to Adam and the Ants?
Stand and Deliver is an ambitious album that is executed with style and panache. While there are obvious echoes back to some of the folk-rock albums of the classic early 70s period there is also something fresh, innovative and daring about Pilgrims’ Way that make this album a delight to listen to.
Released 20th October 2017