Stick In The Wheel – Hold Fast (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 41:22 minutes | 810 MB | Genre: Folk
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © From Here Records
Much of the acclaim for London-based English folk evolutionists Nicola Kearey (vocals) and Ian Carter (guitar/producer) has been down to their willingness to introduce a contemporary edge to the genre. The pair originally worked together in dubstep outfit Various, and elements of electronica enhanced their first two albums. However, whereas this mercurial tendency has previously been a strength, there’s the sense that they’ve overstretched on Hold Fast, the disparate strands failing to coalesce into any sort of cohesive whole.
An incongruous opener aside – A Tree Must Stand in the Earth fuses Saxon poetry with the mesmeric desert blues sprawl of Tinariwen – the first half of the album finds the duo at their most traditional-sounding: Budg & Snudg sets the reminiscences of a 17th-century burglar to a raucous backing; Villon Song is propelled by a relentless beat; Top Knot is all the better for being so simple.
But from then on, envelope-pushing trumps actual tunes. The synth loop of the gentle Possible Reasons for Eventual Admission to the Asylum somehow simultaneously evokes both Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan and These New Puritans’ Organ Eternal, without making for as strong a song as either. Kearey’s treated vocals on Drive the Cold Winter Away, meanwhile, feel jarringly out of place. It is undeniably true that unless Lewis Capaldi goes rogue, Forward is likely to be the only song you’ll hear all year where lyrics taken from the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon will be rendered unintelligible by indiscriminate use of Auto-Tune. But that in itself doesn’t make it good.
1. Stick In The Wheel – A Tree Must Stand In The Earth
2. Stick In The Wheel – Budg & Snudg
3. Stick In The Wheel – Top Knot
4. Stick In The Wheel – Villon Song
5. Stick In The Wheel – Gold So Red
6. Stick In The Wheel – Fake Away
7. Stick In The Wheel – Soldier Soldier
8. Stick In The Wheel – Possible Reasons For Eventual Admission
9. Stick In The Wheel – Drive The Cold Winter Away
10. Stick In The Wheel – Nine Herbs Charm
11. Stick In The Wheel – Forward