Album Of The Month March 2020
I only managed to get my hands on a copy of a Master of Americanarama just hours before this month’s deadline. I’ve been playing it constantly trying to determine which I like more, Kev Walford’s songwriting, his arrangements or the melodies. Although it’s only Kev’s name on the cover there are no fewer than 12 other musicians involved on one track or another, calling it a solo album seems unfair, but the core of its’ being, the songwriting is all Mr Walford…with some help from Andy Heasman and David Booth on two of the thirteen tracks. Jonathan Evans cello introduces us gently to the album as the opening track “Shining Man” reflects on Kev’s life in Liverpool. From that you may well suspect that this album is not all Americana (whatever that may be). Yes, Kev’s appearance at Maverick Festival and his work with Louisiana based Drew Young has given it an unmistakeable American feel but there is some Folk, Rock and Abbey Road moments in the mix too.
The skill of composing good lyrics is making them memorable for us mere mortals then adding a twist. “ Sell My Soul To The Blues” is a case in point. This song was written for Ella Spencer after Kev heard her singing at Maverick Festival last year. She sings it beautifully but it ends by dropping three words from the chorus, making you stop and think. For that moment alone this CD is worth the purchase price.
I love the reworking of Kev’s 2010 number “My, My, My ”It has a North American Tribal beat to it which Mr Walford refers to as “almost rock”. It is far more intense than mere rock! The jewel in this excellent collection of songs is “Jordan (The Glory Road)” and was written specifically for Kelly Bayfield. The song starts and ends a capella showcasing Kelly’s vocal talent. Along the way Jonathan’s cello gives it depth, while Paul Gilling’s harmonica gives it a soulful feel. Although Kev and Kelly are no longer gigging as a duo I do hope they perform this live on some occasion for it is simply beautiful.
Regular readers will know that I dislike doing lists so I’ll not annotate all of the musicians who made this work a deserving Album Of The Month, but one mention is due to David Boot. Not only does he whistle, sing, imitate a brass band and lead on “ Tennessee Williams” he also engineered the recordings at his studio, The Recording Booth.
By the time this goes to print you should be able to pick up a copy of Americanarama for yourself. There will be no glittering launch night which is a pity, so you will need to ensure you keep an eye on our listings to make sure you know when and where Kev Walford is playing. Who might be with him on stage is anyone’s guess!
Reviewed by Tony Bell for Grapevine Magazine March 2020
AMERICANARAMA PLUNGER REVIEW
Lecitihin: you never heard of it but you’d miss it …
Americanarama, the latest release from Kev Walford (of Kev & Kelly, purveyors of one 2018’s best albums Walkin’) draws on such a wide palette of styles and influences, and a rotating pool of Suffolk talent it’s surprising it all hangs together… but it does.
Shining Man’s spare acoustic picking and cello lead-line opening and minimalist plainsong mantra vocal conjure a melancholic vibe with a hint of Mersey march before blossoming into a surprise sun-drenched ecstatic close. Maintaining the Suffolk-via-Stanley-Park folky feel, So Long At The Fair has more of Jonathan Evans’ lush cello and penny-whistlish alto recorder from Finn Collinson as well as luxuriant vocal harmonies, while 1100 Miles features an almost-reprise of Shining Man’s acoustic and cello phrases, this time as part of a Genesis-y Harlequin-like filigree with taut vox and ostensibly bucolic lyric, topped with more sweet harmonies and a lyrical cello break.
The stirring Spiritual feel of Jordan has its own proggy link with a touch of Renaissance’s After The Gold Rush cover in Kelly Bayfield’s velvet-clarity a cappella intro: Paul Gillings’ mellow melodic Walton Mountain harmonica, cello and delicate harmonies accompany her building passion vocal to a bittersweet climax, aided by a nice chord augmentation twist.
Plunger might be imagining it (knowing Kev’s roots), but there’s more spirit of the North West running like a thread through many of the tracks: Wilburys flavours pervade the shit-kicking stomp of If I Ever Get To Houston with Mark Stuart’s twangsome guitar; the backwoods banjo and slide of Healing Heart; Breakfast At 8 (Fatty Arbuckle’s Blues)’s light-hearted moonshiner romp (with harp from Adrian Day this time) and even the driving chug of Kathmandu where minor/major shifts, an oriental spiced ‘Mekong midbreak’ and stylish harmonies (from among others Honey & The Bear’s Lucy & Jon Hart) suggest Graham Nash has joined George and the lads.
Renaissance-man all-rounder David Booth (who did the recording and mixing at The Recording Booth, and adds drums, bass, bvs and assorted other instrumentation throughout) gets a couple of co-writes with Kev: adding rock-edged guitar to the Native American chant-cum-field holler blues of My My My and taking impressive lead vocal on Tennessee Williams, a sophisticated, harmony-rich West Coast country waltz. Kev also yields the lead on Sell My Soul To The Blues, a sunny, relaxed 70s country stroll (evoking Pussycat… there’s one for the teenagers) led by Ella Spencer’s strong vocal, backed by electric guitar from James Hutchinson and Andy Trill.
The album title notwithstanding, there are two moments of could-only-be-English-ness: in the (anti-war? anti-something, we’re sure) vignette of Milk & Roses with its Christmas truce brass (Mr Booth multi-skilling again) and the almost Maccaesque whistling whimsy of 128 Seconds Of Love (it’s actually 48 seconds, trust a man to exaggerate length) that despite its brevity still closes with a lovely luscious flowering of multi-voice harmony.
OK, it’s not lecithin and Plunger don’t know whether it’s the writing, some overarching artistic vision, the spirit of all the musicians involved, something in the Suffolk water or what, but on Americanarama there’s definitely some kind of emulsifying agent that binds all the disparate elements and different contributors into a glossy, satisfying whole. Lovely stuff.
Plunger Music March, 2020.
The sounds of California…
the climate of Seattle.
Maverick Saturday had the real flavour of the West Coast, particularly on the open air Southern Sounds main stage, with a wide range of the Golden State’s sun-drenched sounds and an increasingly ominous Rain City sky.
Kev Walford & Kelly Bayfield were the ideal breezy main stage openers, with Crosby/Nash-like increasingly complex multi-voice harmonies on Money Rules In My World Now, and the moody Renaissance-style proggy folk of The Whistling Man with Kelly’s limpid clarity and a gooseflesh-raising midbreak of noodling Telecaster, soft mallet toms and lush wordless Crosbyesque harmonies.
Plunger Music 07/2019
Tony Bell, Grapevine Magazine, May 2019
A Belated Postcard from Sun-baked Suffolk …
One of the highlights of Plunger’s 2018 was the three scorching days spent at Maverick: while we were there our AirBnB hostess Suzanna gave us a copy of this CD by local artists Kev Walford and Kelly Bayfield. And like much of what Plunger saw at the festival, it’s a case of “Never heard of them… ooh, they’re good aren’t they!”
You might think veteran Kev (check out 70s band Silk) and not-so-veteran jazz singer Kelly an unlikely pairing for an Americana/folk outfit, but despite their diverse origins Walkin’ combines them for very stylish results. In fact the words ‘stylish’, ‘sophisticated’, and ‘complex’ cropped up throughout Plunger’s track-by-track notes.
There’s more than a touch of Crosby, Stills and Nash (in varying combinations and degrees) to much of the album: there are C&N flavours in the mix of unusual-and-sweet progressions and harmonies in the enigmatic string-backed West Coast folk of Money Rules In My World Now, in the chilling harmonies and hypnotic finger-picking of Stray’s dreamy San Fran/English folk hybrid, the lush vocal arrangements (augmented by guesting Honey & The Bear) in a breezy Blessed Are The Heartbreakers and the unexpected chords and off-kilter rhythms of Everything Changes.
The title track’s rootsy Western troubadour country conjures a little more of Stills, as does the traditional-sounding melody and luscious harmony voices of Blessed Light with its upbeat clap-and-percussion close. With complex expansive chords and Kelly taking lead vocal, Please Don’t Leave The Gang (a Silk tune) leans more toward CSN’s muse Joni (with a touch of Annie Haslam) while Kelly takes the spotlight alone for a heartfelt a cappella Lullaby.
While much of Walkin’ has a heat haze reverie vibe (in keeping with Plunger’s memories of July) there are more boisterous numbers: the fiddle-rich Appalachians-via-Aldeburgh hoedown-with-polish Charlie Boy; the salty shanty of Lazy Sailor with Kelly’s husband Mat sharing lead vox; and the bouncy Stealers Wheel-like closer The Rich Man’s Held (By The Shackles & Chains).
We’re ashamed to admit we’d put Walkin’ to one side to “get round to later…” Now that we finally have, we love it: it’s an ideal evocation of those laid-back dog days in Suffolk. Plunger get to hear quite a few new albums, and the proportion that get a listen (or maybe two) then disappear into the pile is pretty high: this is one of a handful that’s going on repeat.
Walkin’ is available from Kev & Kelly’s bandcamp page
Plunger Music, Oct 2018