Review: Skinny Lister – ‘Forge & Flagon’

forgeflagonWhen you’ve a band name that sounds like an outside favourite in The Grand National, you’d think it would perhaps be difficult harnessing much attention as a traditional folk outfit.

But when you’re officially crowed 2011’s Hardest Working Band in Britain by PRS things then begin to make sense.

The Skinny Lister sound, one that encapsulates the old traditions of Ireland complete with rickety fiddles and jaunty accordions, is one that could potentially turn any British summer into a barn-stomping, sundown jig filled with the romanticisms of twirling your sweetheart around with a belly full of good cider.

Lister’s first full offering, ‘Forge and Flagon‘, is aptly named after a pub ran by co-vocalist Lorna Thomas’ family friends. With frothy pints of Guinness and Jameson’s chasers at the ready this is a sound crafted from the pubs and the streets yet with a vision of sun filled, rolling valleys and soft summer meadows.

If The Gaff Don’t Let Us Down’ is a foot stomping opener that puts Lister instantly on a parity with The Pogues. With an assorted mix of accordions, banjos, fiddles and pipes you’d be hard pressed to find anything this year with the same fun and vivacity all packed into a much too brief sub three minutes.

More than just a theme that runs throughout, this classic folk sound captured by the quintet is eloquently crafted with unrivalled feats of musicianship that ebb and flow right through till the end.

The archetypal working man’s a Capella cry comes in the form of ‘John Kanaka’. With lofty shouts of “Work tomorrow but not today” there’s an understanding that this is music that doesn’t pull any punches and doesn’t try to over think itself.

Forty Pound Wedding’ and ‘As Wild As The Wind Blows’ see Lister raise hell with foot stomping beats about love and life and getting wasted on rum and ginger. With these typical Irish sounds it’s hard to believe that you’re listening to a London based quintet hailing from the likes of Bridlington and Hastings. It’s a far cry from the shores of Lough Corrib but these sounds have eschewed any geographical limitations to find a welcoming home in the capital.

And there’s a softer side, too. While Dan Heptinstall’s devilish vocal charm lends itself fittingly to the livelier numbers, it’s Lorna Thomas’s delicate and at times almost silk laden tones that completely turn Lister on its head. ‘Peregrine Fly‘ is a short and sweet folk number that evokes intimations of Laura Marling and even the chamber folk of Nico. It’s with this and ‘Plough & Orion‘ that the harmonies of the two wrap around each other seamlessly to create a vivid depiction of idyllic country life and starry night skies.

Finishing with the masterful ‘Colours‘, a poignant slow burner building into a rapturous, heartfelt crescendo, Lister provides proof that they’re much more than just a good time band.

Having chalked up over 30 festival dates last year from Glastonbury to End Of The Road, it’s a sure fire bet that another gruelling round of summer appearances are being pencilled in for Skinny Lister.

‘Forge & Flagon’ may dip below the radar when up against the big summer releases, but this is an album that will be winning friends and influencing people long after the sun has disappeared.

(Elliot Kuruvita)

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  1. Free Reed 14 June, 2012
  2. Allison DuPree 16 September, 2012

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