Well, just when I thought there were no genre mash ups left – and Malcolm McLaren’s mix of punk and opera was a strange one – we now have folk artists covering disco songs. Does it work?
Label: Island Records
Time: 13 tracks / 49 mins
Looking at the track list, I gave this a simple bar to cross: if they could make Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” work in a folk style, then they had probably succeeded. But how could they, without all those bubbly sequencers that make the original so irresistible?
Simple: this lot have banjos.
And boy, can you still dance to it!
The pumping hoedown effect of some background accordions and fiddles, added to the sheer impertinence of trying it in the first place, make it an absolute joy.
Other tracks, like “Night Fever,” work for the same reason. They’ve kept in its singability.
Similarly, Mike McGoldrick’s distinctive pipes and whistles give “Gimme the Night” and the great funk instrumental “Pick up the Pieces” (which was never a disco song in the first place) plenty of bounce. Both are highlights.
“I Will Survive” is no longer just a female anthem. It’s sung superbly here by Greg Russell, with a delicious, sprightly upright bass accompaniment that all makes it sound a bit like the rhythm track of a John Martyn song. It has new life...
...as has “We are Family.” Some intense bluesy harmonica gives it a meaty feel. I’m not sure how folky it is, but it certainly works.
Some songs that were drowned by the tsunami of disco energy now have their stories rise to the surface, as Hannah Martin and Jim Causley show in their slowed down duet version of “Young Hearts Run Free.” Having proper singers interpret these can add real gravitas.
That said, “Born to be Alive” could do with picking up the pace a bit. While the verses work, singing “It’s good to be alive” this low and slow doesn’t quite convince me.
The whole team has great pedigree and leads to some very fine vocal performances that bring out the hearts of some songs. Producer Mark Tucker has even added Show of Hands to the cast list. They have made “Back to My Roots” just like one of their own songs; it’s unrecognisable as a disco track.
You can’t turn a Trabant into a luxury limousine, however. It may be a personal thing, but “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” always was a dirge of a tune that never properly resolved. This is richer than the original, but the tune’s just as irritating as before.
Causley’s solo take on “I Am What I Am,” accompanied only by accordion, is not the best track of the set, but it exudes a tremendous, tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation that underlies the whole collection.
They have clearly had a lot of fun putting this together. Not only does it work; I can see a sequel coming.