Various Artists

A Full Head of Steam [Northern Sky]

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This collection contains 15 songs that collectively celebrate 175 years of passenger steam trains in England -- the world's first passenger railway. The various artists and their tracks all fall loosely into the folk music category. The Bev Sanders Band's "A Dream of Steam and Freedom" (written by Jez Lowe) resembles early drummer-less Steeleye Span with the Northumbrian pipes giving it a decidedly Northern quality. The duo Nebula contributes "Right Side of the Footplate" credited to songwriter Huw Williams which, oddly enough, was also performed by Fairport Convention on Jewel in the Crown as the traditional piece "Travelling By Steam." The Wilson Family's five-voice a cappella "Jacko the Shunter" is the most traditional sounding selection performed in the British folk vocal tradition. Other selections by Simon Hayworth and Eddie Walker teeter between standard contemporary folk and singer/songwriter fare. J.B. Butterfield's "Trains Breathing Fire" recalls late-'60s/early-'70s Johnny Cash and the Whisky Priests' "Full Circle" appropriately concludes this album. Their music routinely mimics the progression of a steam engine from its rocky, thunderous take-off, to its graceful mid-route stride to the oft'times unexpected halt or the "all-too-short" (musical) journey. Their catchy melodies and descriptive lyrics in tandem with a powerful folk-rock arrangement can easily convey a scenic jaunt by rail or a historical narrative of this celebrated railway in the North East of England.

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