The most famous collaboration of Brit folk legend Clive Palmer?s mates that doesn?t include the word ?incredible,? this Cornwall quintet featured Palmer?s former partner Wizz Jones (see our ?Banjoland? review) and his wife, Sandy, strumming on the old banjo alongside flautist John Bidwell, fresh out of Palmer?s C.O.B. Second banjoman Don Coging and dulcimer/hurdy-gurdy man, Jake Walton round out the group, whose lone album was engineered by, and recorded in Conny Plank?s studio in Neunkirchen in January, 1975 and originally only released in Germany (on EMI?s small Songbird subsidiary). Like ?Banjoland,? the album is a collection of predominently traditional tunes; in fact, Jones says he was inspired to form the band after reading American banjo player John Burke?s tutorial ?Old Time Fiddle Tunes For Banjo? (the album is dedicated to Burke). Still, the fuller instrumentation and angelic harmonies should guarantee this release a wider audience.
Firing on all cylinders, the opening (title) track lays the groundwork for the album that follows by featuring Bidwell?s distinctive flutework ? he?s a veritable Pied Piper leading our strolling minstrels (particularly Sandy and Coging?s double-banjo attack weaving around Walton?s hammered dulcimer) through the paces. It?s a wonderful introduction that occasionally reminded me of a banjo version of ?John Barleycorn.? Ralph McTell (of ?Streets of London? fame) was known to the band through his production of both C.O.B. albums, and offered his Dylanesque ?Standing Down In New York Town,? a straightforward folk rock tune that recounts McTell?s initial foray into the big city in 1971.
The band?s marvelous four-part harmonies (Coging sticks to his banjo duties and Sandy is, by request, buried low in the mix) highlight ?Railroad Boy,? and if the upbeat ?Soldier?s Joy/Arkansas Traveller? doesn?t make you want to jump up and dance a jolly jig, then your nerves are shot and there?s just no good times left in ya. The remainder of the album, including a rousing, singalong rendition of ?The Cuckoo,? Bidwell?s flute solo showcase ?Sally In The Garden? and a re-recording of Wizz?s own ?When I Leave Berlin? (inspired by the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1972 and originally the title track on his 1974 Village Thing solo album ? which, by the way, marked the debut of Lazy Farmer as the backing band on four of the tracks) is of the same consistently high quality. A rare treat and a miraculous resurrection of an essential album in the annals of British folk and my favorite release in Sunbeam?s reissue series so far. 10/10 -- Jeff Penczak (29 June, 2006)