Probably the most exciting folk record of the year from The Rails
The Rails comprise husband and wife Kami Thompson (daughter of folk royalty Richard and Linda Thompson, sister of Teddy and a widely-experienced artist in her own right) and James Walbourne, who has played with everyone from Ray Davies, The Pogues and The Pretenders.
The Rails Fair Warning Island Records Pink Label 8/10However, none of this is important; what is is that they will soon be known for their work as The Rails. The titles may indicate this record is comprised of reworkings of traditional tunes, but it is mostly composed of originals; which is odd, because even at first listen they seem to have a familiar feel to them. I would attribute this to the solid grounding in the UK folk scene the pair have obviously had, and the addition of Eliza Carthy’s violin – who, as daughter of Martin, certainly knows a thing or two about escaping the gravitational pull of a famous family name to attain respect for her own achievements. The combination of all three, with Walbourne’s blues-y guitar runs and the perfect melodic collaborations of his and Kami’s masterful vocals, allied with a songwriting style which respects the past while forging towards the future but always focuses on the quality of the material produced, never dips below spellbinding. Here’s the thing; if you listen to some people, and indeed some music, you could get the idea that folk is insipid, bland, uninspiring. The Rails is anything but; this is folk unleashed, folk that dances in the forests at midnight, howling at the moon. Opener “Bonnie Portmore” is a melodious and sweet duet which showcases their first-class vocals perfectly over a picked guitar which nods to “Maggie May”. Meanwhile, their revenge tale “William Taylor” is a monster of a song, as dark as folk gets and filled with strident passion, while “Panic Attack Blues” drips with energy and menace and is embroidered with a guitar solo from Walbourne which matches the best of Lindsay Buckingham in his ‘70’s heyday – and that ain’t no hollow compliment. The Rails move freely and skilfully between introspective lullaby and raucous jig, reminding you of all the reasons why people responded to the likes of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the likes in the first place. Expect it to be there or thereabouts in the next British Folk Awards, at the very least.