The Ferryman’s Curse aims for the head and the heart more than the feet. …a more mature Strawbs delivering a classic rock/pre-prog collection of perfectly-executed story-songs
The Ferryman’s Curse
10 tracks 50:34
Two years ago Rolling Stone named Strawbs’ Hero and Heroine one of the best prog albums of all time – now, more than four decades later, the band still performs ‘the Readers Digest’ version (as founder/singer/songwriter Dave Cousins puts it ) but more importantly, the band has new material to tour, in the form of their new studio album, The Ferryman’s Curse. The album is an eclectic blend of classic rock and early prog with just a hint of travelling troubadour on the side.
The unmistakable sound of Dave Cousin’s vocals anchors the songs and preserves the tone of the band’s legacy. As poet/singer/storyteller,the singer’s voice is mixed way up front and is appropriately surrounded by Strawbs guitarist Dave Lambert, bass guitarist Chas Cronk, drummer Tony Fernandez and the evocative keyboard and guitar work of former Iona member, Dave Bainbridge. There’s a mood of reflection and mystery to much of the album, with Bainbridge’s fluid keyboard work and synthesized orchestral swells often setting the scene musically while Lambert, Cronk, and Fernandez complete the aural sound-stage for Cousins’ arresting vocals.
With titles like “In the Beginning,” “The Nails From the Hands of Christ,” “When the Spirit Moves,” “The Ten Commandments,” and even an instrumental called “The Reckoning,” it’s pretty obvious that The Ferryman’s Curse aims for the head and the heart more than the feet. Still, Lambert’s funky blues-rock approach on “The Ten Commandments” has a Dire Straits groove that’s quite infectious.
The plaintive “The Familiarity of Old Lovers” offers the poetic, tender lyric nestled in intimate tones, and somehow manages to include stinging guitar lines from Lambert and Bainbridge toward the song’s end.
The album’s centerpiece, the nine minute title track, “The Ferryman’s Curse,” is a prime example of Cousins’ story-telling. If Edgar Allen Poe formed a band, this might be the type of song he’d write – the tale of a boatman, his wife, and the mysterious, ominous, supernatural Ferryman. “One such day when the river was foul / The boatman took his wife to town / Breathing heavy on the journey home / Fever struck as the sun went down / The sickness raged for several days / The doctor rambled in despair / The old priest read the sacraments / Decay and death hung in the air…”
Things don’t stay dark and pensive, though, as the album closes with the more positive “Bats and Swallows” and the uplifting “We Have the Power.” The ascending and descending chords and the After The Fire-like synth solo energizes the motivational “We have the power within us / To move mountains if we try / To change the course of rivers / Or the colour of the sky…” and takes us, in closing, to the more reflective closing words, “Ours is but a short life / From the moment of our birth / When our ashes scatter / To the corners of the earth.”
The Ferryman’s Curse is a more mature Strawbs delivering a classic rock/pre-prog collection of perfectly-executed story-songs that should delight old fans and be a welcome diversion from the current crop of sampled electro-pop bands for potential newcomers.
- Bert Saraco
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