North-east multi-instrumentalist and singer Marty Craggs has been entertaining audiences for forty years both as a member of English folk rock band Lindisfarne during the 1990s and as a founder member of the good-time folk rock trio The Happy Cats. Here he has teamed up with his daughter Beverley and son Andrew, both respected musicians in their own right, to make The Craggs Family Album.
Produced by Andrew and comprising thirteen original songs, with all three sharing the writing credits, the album was recorded live and is rich in infectious harmonies and a range of influences, from traditional north-east folk to dobro-laden Americana, assisted by a host of accomplished musicians and singers.
Marty contributes flute, harmonica, saxophone and whistle, Andrew provides some nifty guitar work across the range of styles, as well as some atmospheric Wurlitzer organ, and Beverley brings her stunning vocal talent to the table.
The album opens with Still Rolling, an upbeat, accordion-heavy foot-tapper sung by Marty which could lyrically be an autobiographical celebration of his continuing musical vitality. Last Chance Shootout on Front Street, sung by Andrew, is the Wild West played out in Whitley Bay, perhaps, with some fine harmonica and guitar breaks. The Chicken Song is three and a half minutes of raucous fun, built around the truism “If you really loved me then you’d let me pick the skin off the chicken”, while Beverley’s fine voice and Andrew’s expert fingerstyle electric guitar picking are both superbly showcased on Those Eyes, and through the smoky blues vibe of I Can’t Cry.
Beverley’s luscious vocal is also to the fore on Gypsy, while Marty sings Angelene McLeod, a slow-paced Irish-influenced ballad, both complete with delightful accordion backing. The Celtic influence is also highlighted on This Life, a reflective piece straight out of the traditional songbook.
Overall the album is a rich and eclectic mix of styles and accomplished musicianship, with fine harmonies and songwriting of a high standard. Other musicians involved include Orlando Shearer (The Blues Aces) on double bass, Ian McIlroy (Rough Chowder) on Cajun accordion and former Damien O’Kane accomplice Shona Newey on Northumbrian accordion.
The Craggs Family launched the album with a nine-piece band at Newcastle’s Cluny in August, and are looking to play a range of festivals during 2017. The energy and skill that radiates from the album will surely translate into a superb live show.