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Folk: album review: Rakoczy ‘Frontrunner’

This review was originally published by Bright Young folk here

From traditional horse fairs, to the wooden ’obby ’oss, to the racehorse, to more mystical creatures, the horse has been an enduring fixture in traditional folk song. Racokzy brings such songs together in an inspired and ambitious approach for her debut album.

Rakoczy, full name Fruzsina Zsofia Rakoczy, was born in Budapest but has lived most of her life in Manchester. Coming to folk music via the Euro dance scene and local sessions, she sings and plays recorder, concertina and bagpipes, all of which can be heard on the album.

The album draws together traditional favourites like Skewbald, Poor Old Horse and Creeping Jane along with covers from the likes of US singer-songwriter Tucker Zimmerman and pastoral prog rockers Jethro Tull, in addition to a couple of originals.

In her biography Rakoczy cites influences as diverse as British and European traditional song, early music, classic rock, gothic and steampunk and draws inspiration from artists like Tom Waits, Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga, David Bowie and Joan Jett. With a versatile vocal delivery and excellent musical accompaniment, the spectrum of emotions, moods and influences the artist and her backing band take us on over the course of this album is an exhilarating ride.

From the powerful bagpipe and drumming arrangements which lend atmosphere to opening track Hooden Horse, a Kentish calling-on song celebrating the parade of the wooden hobby horse through the streets of Broadstairs, to the sparse and mournful guitar and vocal arrangement on Little Dun Dee collected from septuagenarian Gypsy traveller Mary Anne Haynes in the 1970s, there is plenty for the traditional folk enthusiast to fall in love with on this album.

For their cover of Zimmerman’s Taoist Tale meanwhile, Rakoczy and her band, the Horror Show, channel the spirit of Mancunian indie favourites The Stone Roses. The album ends with a little bit of folk rock – not the late 60s variety but a blast of 1950s rock and roll as the traditional song Dead Horse is repurposed as a vintage electric guitar romp, a glorious and fitting tribute to our equine friends everywhere.

Quirky, inspired and creative Frontrunner is a superb debut and Rakoczy will most definitely be a name to watch out for.

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