October 28, 2016
Brexit Blues offers a light-hearted yet poignant collection of folk, roots and blues music from across Europe, lamenting a decision that confounds those of us who openly welcome our neighbours and celebrate cultural diversity.
‘Riverboat certainly deserves an award for quick-witted marketing. The centre of gravity tilts towards Eastern Europe, which may or may not be an ironic comment on the tenor of the debate. There’s even the mischievous addition of a track by the Turkish-Kurdish singer Olcay Bayir. The late John Renbourn flies the flag for the UK. Next challenge: a set looking on the bright side of Brexit.’The Sunday Times
This chronicle of poignant music from across Europe laments the decision. For those of us who quite liked being able to swap proverbial spare keys and borrow the odd cup of sugar from our neighbours, Brexit is bolster to a seeping mood indigo. Music though is a healer. Can music help to break down the very borders Brexit seeks to impose? Here’s hoping.
Polish trio Chlopcy Kontra Basia open the album with ‘Wieczerza’, a butterscotch jazz bounce. Basia Derlak’s immaculate vocal knits folklore tales to arthouse concept without fuss as double bass and drums fuzz out the edges. Hungarian band Sondorgő offer up ‘Evo Scru’, a trembling tightrope walk through two Serbian melodies from the northern region of Vojvodina. Another Hungarian stalwart, the prodigious Bela Lakatos is heard on ‘Pal O Forro’ hurtling full-speed with chanting vocals, foot-stomping and slapped percussion. Slip-sliding across the fretboard in to Serbia, we have husband and wife duo Faith I Branko on dramatic Balkan ode ‘Rose’. Branko leans heavily on his violin strings whilst Faith pumps the accordion. Another accordionist, Aidan Coffey, flies the Irish flag on the wistful air ‘An Pastin Fionn (The Fair-Haired Child)’.
‘Erhetai Heimonas’ is mercurial, a dose of Greek psychedelia complete with Mellotron tincture. Another Greek contribution comes from Rebetika rogue Dimitris Mistakidis on guitar cascade ‘Gkiouzel’. We hear perfectly formed klezmer from London-based band She’Koyokh. Violin, clarinet and guitar dance in perfect step whilst accordion takes up the bellows on their Moldavian dance ‘Hora De La Munte’.
John Renbourn & Wizz Jones beautifully sum up the Brexit mood with their classic rendition of ‘Blues Run The Game’. This recording is taken from the duo’s 2016 album Joint Control recorded just before the passing of Renbourn: a gem in the archive showcasing two of the UK’s most influential acoustic guitarists.
‘Polon& Fr& Sexdrega’ is a Swedish processional, almost dirge-like but with a recurring glint of hopefulness peeking the parapet. The band, FatDog, host members from the folk and jazz scenes of Sweden, Norway and England.
Boris Kovač’s saxophone ends the album with ‘Pannonian Blues’. The track takes its title from the East-Central European region of Pannonia that belonged in part to Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Croatia an ancient province that cut across modern-day borders now lost to the sands of time. Pause for thought indeed.
A secret bonus track from Turkish-Kurdish London-based Olcay Bayir hypothetically extends the European Union even further, ready to welcome Turkey one day. Upbeat Albanian love song ‘Jarnana’ illuminates Olcay’s velveteen soprano.