The Albion Band

Albion Sunrise: The HTD Recordings 1994-1999

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This 32-song double-CD set is full of surprises from the get-go. Folk music on steroids is the way the Albion Band's music is described in the notes to this killer double-CD set, and they're right, at least for the first four tracks on Albion Sunrise. Beginning with the modified Marc Bolan-cum-Chuck Berry lead guitar riff on "Ball, Anchor and Chain," the music on the first four tracks pretty much throws its boldness, wattage, and attitude in your face, doing everything that traditional folk music -- and there is plenty of great fiddle playing here to remind listeners from whence this band came -- isn't supposed to do. What follows is pretty much just as far out there: the boldest, ballsiest British folk-rock -- really rock-folk -- that you're ever likely to hear, even amid the virtuoso mandolin and acoustic guitar playing. But then the music switches gears to a much more traditional-sounding "Flandyke Shore," awash in a haunting lyricism and sensibilities three centuries removed from the preceding songs. Track by track, the effect is spellbinding and dazzling across the two discs, melding sounds akin to Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, et al., into a rich musical whole, all so strong that it's impossible to single out any highlights, although one has to believe that leader Ashley Hutchings is correct in his assessment of those first four cuts -- that, strong as Gillie Nichols and Kellie While are as singers on the later tracks (especially "Welcome to the World," sung by Nichols and Ken Nicol), Julie Matthews fronting the band on those earliest tracks here offered a real shot at a serious rock crossover audience for the group.

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