Like the United States, England has experienced several folk revivals over the past century, leading to a renewed interest in traditional and acoustic music, and even the establishment of an annual folk awards show by one of the United Kingdom’s most popular radio stations, BBC Radio 2. While many of England’s well-known folk artists aren’t that familiar to American listeners, it’s always nice when their music finds its way across the Atlantic.
Jaywalkers, a young band from near Liverpool, has begun to make a name for itself throughout the United Kingdom, and even placed third at the 2012 European World of Bluegrass. Their latest album, Early for a Thursday, should catch the attention of American fans of melodic folk music. The group’s combination of fiddle, mandolin, and bass (with a little guitar and bouzouki thrown in) creates a fresh, light sound on this collection of mostly original songs.
These tunes are generally of the acoustic, folk-pop-grass style that is quite popular these days. Jaywalkers do it well, bringing to mind several comparisons to Della Mae, particularly on the vocal end of things (fiddler Jay Bradberry takes care of the emotion-filled lead). Mandolin player Michael Giverin wrote nine of the album’s twelve tracks, including the interesting title track, an instrumental which begins as a delicate, classical-influenced mandolin and fiddle piece and then transforms into a fast-paced, grassy number near the end.
The album’s other original instrumental is FATG, a well-performed fiddle tune with a bit of a Celtic flair. Two other instrumental pieces come from different backgrounds. Não Me Toques has Brazilian origins, and Jaywalkers certainly give it a Latin flair. Lucy Williams’ slap bass throughout gives the tune a unique rhythm section, and she contributes a great break, as well. The closing track, Dark Eyes, is a traditional number that the band also gives an international feel – this time an Italian sound to showcase Giverin’s mandolin.
Giverin has pulled from old poems and legends from northwestern England (Lancashire, in particular) for several other tunes. Drag You Down is one of the more bluegrass-sounding numbers on the album, and shares the story of a man’s meeting with the devil. Goodnight, Old Friend is a wistful, lonesome farewell, while Our Sarah is both humorous and sad, and speaks of a woman who has chosen a wealthy man over her family. The latter is another tune steered by Williams’ energetic, enjoyable bass playing.
Nashville Dreams offers the familiar tale of a musician’s journey towards fame. Lonesome Graveyard has a similar sound (midtempo, with yearning vocals), and tells a compelling story anchored by the lyrics “I’ll be his wife or I’ll take his life, don’t matter much to me.” While the words and music don’t quite seem to match, the lyrics are intriguing and will keep listeners tuned in.
With Early for a Thursday, Jaywalkers provides fans with a fine sound based in tradition but updated and stretched for modern listeners. Fans of contemporary bluegrass could surely appreciate the album, while those who prefer a folkier sound will enjoy it too. Bradberry, Giverin, and Williams are currently spending most of their time performing around England, but it might just be time for a trip to America.
For more information on Jaywalkers, visit the band’s website at www.jaywalkers.co.uk. Early for a Thursday can be purchased from several online retailers, including Amazon.