THE WOODBINE AND IVY BAND-SLEEP ON SLEEPING ON.

THE WOODBINE AND IVY BAND-SLEEP ON SLEEPING ON.

Four years after releasing their eponymous debut album in 2011. The Woodbine and Ivy Band return with their new album Sleep On Sleeping On. It was released on March 9th 2015, on Static Caravan Recordings, and sees The Woodbine and Ivy Band head in a different direction from their eponymous debut album.

Sleep On Sleeping On, which partly, was inspired by G.I. Gurdjieff’s theories on what he termed “waking sleep,” and sees The Woodbine and Ivy Band combine folk, psychedelia , prog rock, jazz and country rock. This is quite a departure from their eponymous debut album.

Released in 2011, The Woodbine and Ivy Band was essentially, an album of folk music from what was a Manchester supergroup. It featured some of the city’s finest musicians, including Jenny McCormick, James Raynard, Mike Doward, John Ellis, Gus Fairbairn, Rachael Gladwin, Chris Hillman, Peter Philipson  and Sam Lench. Together, they played their part in the success of The Woodbine and Ivy Band. 

It was released to critical acclaim in 2011. Critics were won over  by The Woodbine and Ivy Band folk-tinged sound. The album was compared to Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention and Crazy Horse. Things were looking good for The Woodbine and Ivy Band. Surely it wouldn’t be long until they released their sophomore album?

With so many musicians involved in The Woodbine and Ivy Band, it’s not surprising that four long years passed before they released another album. Getting everyone together must have proved problematic. However, at last, the wait is over and Sleep On Sleeping On was released on 9th March 2015. 

During the last four years, The Woodbine and Ivy Band seem to have reinvented themselves. While folk music still plays a part in Sleep On Sleeping On, it’s a much more eclectic album. Everything  from psychedelia , prog rock, jazz and country rock can be heard on Sleep On Sleeping On’s ten tracks.

The ten tracks on Sleep On Sleeping On are best described as eclectic. There’s traditional folk songs like White Hare and Rebel Soldier, a song about the American Civil War. Cover versions include The Albion Band’s Rise Up Like the Sun and Lal and Mike Waterson’s ‘Bright Phoebu. Lal Waterson also cowrote Flight Of The Pelican with her son Oliver Knight. Minstrel and The King was penned by Gerald T. Moore and featured on Heron’s sophomore album. Pretty Fly Lullaby will be familiar to movie buffs, as it featured in the 1955 thriller Night Of The Hunter. Then on on the instrumental One Summer Day, The Woodbine and Ivy Band enjoy the opportunity to stretch their legs at the 80 Hertz Studios, in Manchester.

That’s where much of Sleep On Sleeping On was recorded by The Woodbine and Ivy Band’s extensive lineup. This includes the rhythm section of drummer and percussionist Karl Penney, Michael Doward on bass and double bass,  Peter Philipson on acoustic and electric guitar and Chris Hillman on pedal steel and Rickenbacker 12 String guitar. They were joined by John Ellis on piano and Hammond organ, Raz Ullah on synths and Rachael Gladwin on harp. Horns come courtesy of saxophonist Gus Fairbairn and trumpeter Luke Das-Gupta. Adding vocals were Jenny McCormick and James Raynard who also played acoustic guitar. Additional musicians included David A. Jaycock on acoustic guitar and percussionist Ian Budgie Jones. Backing vocals came courtesy of Anna Zweck, Mike Doward and Sam Lench. Producing Sleep On Sleeping On was Peter Philipson. Once the ten tracks were recorded, Sleep On Sleeping On was released in March 2015. At last, The Woodbine and Ivy Band were back, with their long awaited sophomore album Sleep On Sleeping On.

Opening Sleep On Sleeping On is the title-track. It was partly inspired by G.I. Gurdjieff’s theories on what he referred to as “waking sleep.” Washes of shimmering synths give way to a wistful acoustic guitar and a broody bass. Soon, a pedal steel weeps, adding an atmospheric, ethereal hue. Fuzzy and lysergic it cocoons you. Even more so, when a melancholy trumpet plays. Dreamy backing vocals make a fleeting appearance on what’s a beautiful, melancholy and atmospheric track.

Arm A Nation is a song about the international arms trade. A weeping pedal steel is joined by washes of Hammond organ and an acoustic guitar. They set the scene for Jenny McCormick’s tender, thoughtful vocal.  It’s yin to the arrangement’s yang. It now includes bursts of jagged, rocky guitars. They don’t overpower the arrangement, nor Jenny’s vocal. She delivers the lyrics with feeling and frustration. One of the most telling lines is: “you sure this has to be the way to arm a nation?” Later, the jam, when stabs of horns, the Hammond organ and bursts of machine gun guitars unite on this.  They play their part in genre-melting track, where country, folk, rock and social comment are combined by The Woodbine and Ivy Band.

White Hare is a traditional 19th Century folk song, given a dramatic, rocky, makeover by  The Woodbine and Ivy Band. Straight away, crunchy, grizzled rocky guitars grab your attention. Soon, they’re joined by the rhythm section. It’s almost grungey. Then it’s all change. When James’ vocal enters he’s joined by a piano, as the track takes on  more of a folk rock sound. From there, the arrangement veers between the two grungey, to the folk rock sound. Later, stabs of horns and sci-fi sounds are added. So, are prog-rock keyboards. By then,  The Woodbine and Ivy Band are picking and mixing musical genres and influences to reinvent this traditional 19th Century folk song. The result is folk, but not as we know it.

As Jackdaws unfolds, the unmistakable sound of Jackdaws can be heard. They were recorded early one morning, in a wood near Manchester. Again, they’re scene setters, giving way to a meandering, dreamy acoustic guitar and washes of ethereal synths. Together, they create a dreamy, ambient sound that washes over you, soothing even the weariest of souls.

Pretty Fly Lullaby featured in the 1955 thriller Night Of The Hunter. That’s not surprising. Straight away, the track takes on an atmospheric, cinematic sound. Synths are soon joined by a wistful piano. They’re then joined by Jenny’s wistful vocal and a harpsichord. She gets across the sadness in and sense of loss in the lyrics. Then when here vocal drops out, a piano, braying saxophone and harmonies combine to reinforce the tragedy of the situation. Just like Jenny’s vocal they play their part in a track that’s variously beautiful, and tinged with tragedy, loss and heartache.

Bells ring out as The Woodbine and Ivy Band set about reinventing Minstrel and a King, which was originally recorded by Heron. Horns sound, a piano plays and before long, they’re replaced by a dramatic swell. It quickly dissipates, leaving just James’ vocal. He’s accompanied by just a  lone acoustic guitar. This works, allowing James’ vocal to take centre-stage. Later, and just at the right time, a Hammond organ, piano and bass join. By then, memories of Al Stewart in his prime come flooding back. There’s even a nod to Andrew Gold, as this folk rock track begins to show its delights. What follows is a nine minute epic, where The Woodbine and Ivy Band reinvent Minstrel and a King.

Flight of the Pelican has a much more understated, folk sound. Just a lone plucked guitar plays. It’s joined by washes of a weeping pedal steel. It adds to the sense of melancholy. That’s even before Jenny’s pensive, thoughtful vocal takes centre-stage. Later, thing get even better when a piano is added. It’s panned left, alongside the pedal steel.  Later, it’s replaced by a fuzzy guitar, as briefly, Jenny’s vocal reverberates. Mostly though, it’s emotive, needy and melancholy as she brings new meaning into this Lal Waterson and Oliver Knight penned track.

From the opening bars, One Summer Day is a genre-melting instrumental. There’s elements of electronica, experimental, psychedelia and prog rock as The Woodbine and Ivy Band stretch their legs. With their rhythm section driving the arrangement along, psychedelic guitars and prog rock keyboards combine. The various sci-fi sound effects add an experimental hue. Bursts of joyous horns prove to the finishing touch as seamlessly, The Woodbine and Ivy Band combine rock, psychedelia and prog rock.

Old Man is a song about the ageing process, and a man trying hold off what he eventually realises is inevitable. It’s a thoughtful, understated ballad. Just acoustic guitars accompany James’ reflective vocal as he deals with, and eventually, comes to terms with growing old.

Rebel Soldier closes Sleep On Sleeping On. It’s a piano lead ballad, about the American Civil War. James takes charge of the lead vocal. As he brings the lyrics to life, washes of a pedal steel weep. It almost replicates the sense of loneliness, hopelessness and fear in James’ vocal. Later, braying horns add to the sense of melancholia, in this thoughtful, historical ballad.

After a gap of four long years, Manchester supergroup The Woodbine and Ivy Band returned with their new album, Sleep On Sleeping On. It was released on March 9th 2015, on Static Caravan Recordings, and saw The Woodbine and Ivy Band head in a very different direction from their eponymous debut album.

Sleep On Sleeping On, which partly, was inspired by G.I. Gurdjieff’s theories on what he termed “waking sleep,” is best described as an album of genre-melting music.  The Woodbine and Ivy Band combine country, electronica, excperimental, folk, jazz psychedelia, prog rock and rock. While this is quite a departure from their eponymous debut album, Sleep On Sleep On will appeal to a much wider audience.

During the ten tracks on Sleep On Sleeping On, The Woodbine and Ivy Band show their versatility. Seamlessly, they switch between musical genres. Sometimes, they fuse several genres within the same song. Whether its traditional ballads, cover versions or new songs, The Woodbine and Ivy Band are at the top of their game. No wonder. The Woodbine and Ivy Band feature some of Manchester’s top musicians. 

With more years than they care to remember behind them, The Woodbine and Ivy Band make music this good sound easy. Especially, their twin vocalists Jenny McCormick and James Raynard. Both have the ability to breath life, meaning and emotion into songs. Especially Jenny McCormick. She sounds as if she’s lived some of the lyrics. Jenny’s vocal is variously ethereal, tender, hopeful, needy and heartfelt. Jenny McCormick is one of The Woodbine and Ivy Band’s secret weapons on Sleep On Sleeping On. However, it’s almost unfair to refer to someone as the star of The Woodbine and Ivy Band. After all, everyone played their part.

Each of The Woodbine and Ivy Band’s extensive lineup played its part in the sound and success of Sleep On Sleeping On. They’re responsible for an album that’s well worth the four year wait. Having said that, let’s hope that The Woodbine and Ivy Band don’t take another four years to record the followup to Sleep On Sleeping On.  After all, a band as good as The Woodbine and Ivy Band deserve to be heard by a much wider audience. Hopefully, the eclectic delights of Sleep On Sleeping On will be the album that introduces  The Woodbine and Ivy Band ’s music to a much wider audience.

THE WOODBINE AND IVY BAND-SLEEP ON SLEEPING ON.

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