The album title could be lifted from Dire Straits’ classic Sultans of Swing, and, if not of sultans of that genre, Man The Lifeboats are at least rulers of reel (sorry, best we could do).
This album is a collection of rocking folk tunes that would have an audience (at the very least) tapping its collective feet. The made-for-live sound and amusing lyrics also somewhat mask a knowledge of music and musicianship that is apparent across the songs.
The opener is the barnstorming Northern Girls, about the benefits and otherwise of marrying a “northern” girl, though, as Londoners, their definition of northern is from Carlisle to Crewe. Stonking song. There’ll be a few beers spilled when they play this live.
Women seem to inspire: Carry Me Home is about the narrator, “an old dog,” meeting a lass with “A face like the north side of the Eiger”; he’d prefer to sit drinking and someone to carry him home, which is not to her taste. She tells him: “You’re leaving / Pick a window.”
Canvey Island Girl is more serious, a slower tune of a momentary love affair between the titular belle and the singer, the girl “depart(ing) in a Hackney carriage by the light of the estuary moon.”
Elsewhere, When The Ship Goes Down is a slower, bluesier commentary on the state of the nation, “the going’s tough / The sea’s too tough” … “we should be blaming the banks not the refugees.” Drinking and social history are topics tackled with as much fervour as romance.
The sound ranges from Celtic yearning to English folk to drunken carousing, all played well and with a mix of instrumentation.
They formed after seeing a Skinny Lister gig and are compared in some reviews to The Levellers but they’re not either; slicker and more varied than the Lister but not as pop/commercial as Levellers, though the politics might be the same. Highly recommended.
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