Alex Highton – Nobody Knows Anything

Alex Highton first came onto our radar two years ago when his debut album Woodditton Wives Club landed on our doormat. This collection of savvy pastoral folk pop, inspired by his own family move from London to the Cambridgeshire village of Woodditton, was beautifully arranged; perfectly mirroring his transition from city to rural life.


Two years on he’s still producing high quality folk music, but on Nobody Knows Anything his palette is far broader and there is a range of genres at his finger tips. There is also a raft  of notable backing musicians too such as Robert Rotifer on electric guitar, John Howard on piano and the wonderful English folk vocals of Nancy Wallace.

On one hand Nobody Knows Anything is still the rural folk album that Woodditton Wives Club was. There’s the similar Pentangle style double bass, acoustic guitar and the addition of Wallace to add further folk class.

But on the other hand Highton has packed this with squelchy synths, nods to the 1960s psychedelia and pop as well as more modern alternative music by the likes of Field Music. One reviewer had even compared a track to the Only Fools And Horses theme tune.

These two strands of rural folk and modern eclecticism never conflict thankfully, they just weave in and out of each other as old friends and by the end it ceases to matter whether this is a folk album that became more ambitious or an ambitious album that wants to retreat back into the comfort of Cambridgeshire village life.

Take one of the highlights, Sunlight Burns Your Skin, for example. It starts with largely vocals and acoustic guitar. So far so folk. Then Rotifer’s electric guitar comes in and a world of psychedelic pop ushers in with trombone, backing vocals, more trombone, more guitar, more of everything and eventually comes to close with an acapela breakdown.

The same transition from small to downright  huge occurs on You don’t Own This Life, the album’s opener, which starts with some smart guitar picking and ends up with a whole load of clarinet and a trip to Dixieland.

It Falls Together and Fear are the ones that will delight Field Music fans. Like Field Music’s David Brewis, Highton is a fan of Talking Heads and it shows on these two jerky, pop tracks.

And then one of the album’s key tracks Panic ushers in. With its emotion and low key Northern delivery  Panic will particularly appeal to Elbow fans, albeit ones that also like thick squelchy synths, delay effect guitar and film soundtracks. Miserable Rich are another act that bares similarity – particularly on the beautiful Somebody Must Know Something.

As it progresses it’s clear this is no ordinary folk album with its broad range of genres, melody and invention, but for those familiar with Woodditton Wives Club this is unmistakeable Highton, only more so.


by Joe Lepper



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