Back at the turn of the 20th century, music expert Cecil Sharpe began his epic task of travelling England, collecting ancient folk music from those singing in fields, pubs and in their homes. This marvellous collection prompted a raft of folk music revivals since and now sits proudly in the library at Cecil Sharp House in London.
A century on and Darren Hayman’s recent use of the library’s resources would have met with great approval from Cecil.
Following on from last year’s well researched folk album about the 17th century witch trials of Essex, Hayman has once again plundered England’s folk music and historical archives for this companion piece looking more broadly at the music of the English Civil War.
Taking the original songs as the source material Hayman has assembled a ‘short parliament’ of hipsters and modern day folk musicians, such as Johny Lamb, David Tattersall and Allo’ Darlin’s Bill Botting, to put his own stamp on the songs.
The result is a loving and modern take on the chaotic Civil War period, with his Essex and London accent giving the songs greater authenticity.
Where the album works best is where the more modern sounds come through, such as the electric guitar on Hey Then Up We Go and The Contented as well the shuffling rhythm of Seven Months Married. The acoustic guitar work on the instrumental Owl also has a simple and modern feel to it and proves to be a real highpoint of the album.
With Hayman putting his musical mark on these old lyrics his project is similar to that of Billy Bragg and Wilco with their own take on Woody Guthrie’s lyrics for their Mermaid Avenue sessions. There’s the same love for the original material shining through here as there was on their resulting albums.
Billed as a companion piece to The Violence, Bugbears ends up being a fine album in its own right. Cecil would have been proud.
by Joe Lepper