LOWP – Drive away Dull Care
Self Released – 13 November 2017
Oh, why should we our lot complain, or grieve at our distress? Well, we don’t have to if we have the help of LOWP to drive away dull care. LOWP are a folk band from the North East of England, in particular from Jarrow, South Shields and Newcastle. They were formed in late 2009 when the Northumbrian folk-rock band Death at the Leek Show split. Iain Gelston joined the remaining four – Ben Hudson, Stephen Pratt, David Harrison and Peter Brown – and the band have been keeping busy in and around the north-east ever since. They play a mix of songs and dance music, mostly from traditional sources, on fiddle, flute, bagpipes, guitar, mandolin and bouzouki. This acoustic make-up adds to the ‘traditional’ in a good way, making it fresh and immediate, a recording for now and not for an archive.
The tunes will make you tap your feet, but I think that if you don’t want to do more than that, you either need your ears testing or you haven’t had enough of whatever it is that makes you get up and go. The word ‘lowp’ is a dialect word for leap or jump and it is easy to see why they have taken this as their name. The music is drawn from Tyneside, Durham and Northumberland, and has a quality that is unique to that area, a meeting of Scottish and English but suffused with its own vitality and its distinctive accents – heavily influenced by the Irish and Scots immigrants to the region.
This synthesis of the local that has drawn on other traditions is shown in the sets: Ellis Kelly’s Delight/Drops of Brandy are of Irish origin; Rusty Gully/Duns Dings A’/Wee Totem Fogg are from the Borders; and the final set on the album, Ev Chistr ‘ta Laou/An Dro/Laride are Breton tunes.
The songs are equally diverse and as we all know, if you hear one traditional song you know that there are several different versions of it, from several different places. Long Lankin (pronounced here ‘lonkin’) has versions all over and whilst debates may be had elsewhere about whether there were one or two original versions, each with different stories, here we can just revel (or not) in the bloodiness of the tale.
The other songs include The Merchants Son, a salutary tale of a young man on seeking pleasure in the company of a beggar wench, Cuddle In, Me Darling and Tally I-O The Grinder, which must win the earworm prize. It is also a song that is clearly ripe for a more modern meaning. Other songs may be catchy but getting the words can be a challenge for some – ie: me. The excellent Willie Wastle/Sic A Wife As Willie Had is a good case in point, with the words by Robert Burns having to be found to be read in order to get the full flavour – though a few listens and the ear could be well-tuned.
One of the many delights of this album is the seamless movement from one tune to the next, either in the sets or from song to tune. The companionship of these pairs or triplets is just right and adds an extra dimension. My personal favourite is the Echo Mocks the Corncrake/The Peacock Followed The Hen; they just work so well.
One of the secrets of successful show business I have been told is to leave the audience wanting more. This is a short album by today’s standards, a shade under 30 minutes, but according to the promo picture is just right for an LP – though I do not know if it is available on vinyl. I do not think that there need be more tracks necessarily but some of the existing ones could have stretched a bit further without losing anything. Short, but a very good package of songs and tunes, some familiar and some with echoes of familiarity and a great sense that they are enjoying themselves, and so should we. You listen and see if you agree and lowp. Whatever your answer, I hold this is the wisest thing to drive dull care away.
Order it now via Bandcamp: https://lowp.bandcamp.com/