Skinny Lister - The Story Is... - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Skinny Lister - The Story Is...

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2019-03-01
Skinny Lister - The Story Is...
Skinny Lister - The Story Is...

I suppose it all started with Fairport’s Liege & Lief and the amped-up versions of “Matty Groves” and “Tam Lin.” Then Steeleye Span had a big hit with “All Around My Hat.”

But for a while, nobody cared about folk rock, and (the great) Richard Thompson couldn’t even get a recording contract.

And to quote RT himself, “For Shame of Doing Wrong.” And I tried hard to like The Human League and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. They both sported a cool name, and OMD had a die-cut album cover. But they were, to quote some lyric by Peter Gabriel, a “No Go Zone.”

But then, out of nowhere, the rogue folk bands were suddenly popular. And I loved them all—The Pogues, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, The Tansads, The Levellers, God’s Little Monkeys, and (my favorite) The Oysterband.  As said, I loved them all.

So, this is an album that touches that trad spirit and manages to pump it up with punk pressure and attitude. And it does just that. And then it does just that and then a bit more. The first song, “Second Amendment,” is the cliché folk-punk song punched right into the face. Odd: a British band that, with an ironic glance, tackles the very American gun fight. Well, they are a world class band about to take on the world. Well, welcome to America.

That aside, the song echoes great tunes from the Sixties (with a touch of reggae) and has an infectious melody. The Clash did that, too. Then Lorna Thomas sings the lead vocal for “My Life, My Architecture,” while the band enthuses with pop-punk spirit. There are a lot of crisp “Hey-Hey-Hey” chorus chants. The entire album is infused with great harmony and backing vocals.

But “Diesel Vehicle” slows the heart beat and creates the necessary drama of folk music. Quite frankly, with the confession of putting “unleaded into my diesel vehicle,” it (almost) suggests the plight from a later in his career Arista Ray Davies song. Such is the plight of mechanized and (in this case) not so mobilized modern man. Oh, to be an Apeman and sail away to a distant shore!

To its credit, this music avoids the heavy-handed folk-punk that countless American bands tread from folk fest to folk fest, with (usually) kilted bagpipers, big boots, and jigs, reels, and hornpipes all buried beneath heavy-handed quasi mythological Crop Circle dance sludge, stuff that makes festive music goers think that old traditional music might be, just for the moment, pretty great.

Of course, it is great, but only in the power and beauty of its subtle moments, moments that don’t need kilts, bagpipes, and Crop Circles.

Listen to Silly Wizard, Capercaillie, very early Clannad, Five Hand Reel, The Saw Doctors, Planxty, Old Blind Dogs, or (the wonderfully named) Deaf Shepherd.

And this music sings the praises, from time to time, of those subtle moments.

“Stop and Breath” is such a moment. Acoustic guitars frame the dual voices, and in time, the drums propel the tune into a very kind and very friendly orbit.

The same is true for “Sometimes So It Goes,” a song with a Lorna vocal that (almost) evokes the luster of the great Linda Thompson.  

The rest of the album becomes a grab bag of rogue folk, punk, and late 70’s rock. Yes, it is all exciting, but these radio waves have already been sent out into the universe. Still, it’s always nice to hear them again. “Artist Arsonist” actually sounds like Andy Partridge and XTC. “The Shining” is danceable like The Eurythmics. “Cause for Chorus” sounds like Billy Bragg. “Alister Mc Allister” echoes Elvis Costello. And, by the way, it gives Rocky Horror’s “Hot Patootie Bless My Soul” a run for its Transylvanian spaceship ticket ride home. This is a band that is extending the folk/punk parameters.  

And all of this propels the band away from the obvious folk roots. The title track, “The Story Is” has drama. “38 Minutes” simply rocks and warns us all “This Is Not a Drill.” Heck, Ziggy at least gave us five years. This is much more urgent. The Lorna Thompson voiced “My Distraction,” again, sings pop punk and is an easy reminder as to the melodic attributes of the word “radio.”

The album ends with the up-tempo “Any Resemblance to Actual Persons, Living or Dead, Is Purely Coincidental” that is, actually, a world away from rogue folk. It’s New Wave, which is certainly Old Wave by now. But, again, that’s all right, because folk music tradition, in one form or another, will always remind us all about the humanity, and the sometimes, it will give a glimpse into the subtle soul of a very friendly and very old rock ‘n’ roll universe.

Oh—I’d love to see this band live.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles
Skinny Lister - The Story Is... - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab
Wishbone Ash - Argus
  • 08/29/2019
  • By Bill Golembeski
Skinny Lister - The Story Is... - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab
Galaverna - Dodsdans
  • 08/16/2019
  • By Bill Golembeski
Skinny Lister - The Story Is... - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab
Shannon Lay - August
  • 08/03/2019
  • By Mark Moody