I was introduced to folk music at an early age. My sister listened to Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Nick Drake and Bob Dylan with enthusiasm. My assimilation of largely acoustic folk songs came via prog rock and new wave/punk bands of the 70’s and 80’s such as XTC, The Stranglers and The Buzzcocks. I revisited folk in the early 1980s and embraced it wholeheartedly.
In more recent years my musical tastes have settled in so called ‘indie music’. Thanks to BBC 6 Music, a mass of new and exciting young bands have become accessible to me. Keston Cobblers Club came to my attention on October 22nd 2013. They were supporting another favourite of mine, To Kill A King, at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds.
I had heard a couple of tracks before the gig and liked their upbeat and interesting sound. I had also watched a couple of videos on YouTube (‘Beam’ and ‘For Words’). As with every exciting new sound, I’m six months behind the smart guys.
Their set was joyous, tight and left me wanting more. I met the band after their set and after the gig. What a charming, nice bunch they were too!
According to the band biography and a tale told at that gig, the Keston Cobbler was around a couple of hundred years ago. A local cobbler who supplemented his income by playing fiddle in a tavern often bemoaning his lack of business. The fiddler would get the locals dancing and in turn, wearing their shoes out. Good for business I guess you would say.
The band is comprised of brother and sister Matthew & Julia Lowe, Tom Sweet, Bethan Ecclestone and Harry Stasinopoulos. I would talk about who plays what instrument but in truth its best to say they are all multi instrumentalists. The use of brass, as well as more regular stringed and percussive instruments, gives a complexity and depth to the sound. The vocals are often harmonised adding yet more depth. The main vocals are taken by Matt but Jules will share these on the odd song. The band have released several EPs and their first album One, For Words in 2012. The first album was well received with such luminaries as Bob Harris and Steve Lamacq championing the band. I saw the band on their first headlining tour in February 2014 at the Brudenell Social Club again.
The band have a very engaging quality. They produce an inclusive almost intimate feel to their gigs. You want to tap your foot, have a dance and above all, smile. It is happy music. This is not to say it lacks complexity or depth because as already mentioned, it does. I loved the first album and much of their earlier material. Indeed I sang and played on the mandolin a rousing rendition of ‘Beam’ at a New Years Eve party in 2013. The days of me playing or singing live I thought were long gone but that song drew me out of self imposed retirement.
Wildfire released this year on Absolute/Universal label is a step on along the road for the band. The music is more complex than previous. The use of electronic enhancement and more driven almost tribal percussion (particularly on the title track) had enhanced the Cobblers sound. The tracks have shades of Stornoway/Mumford &Sons and Steeleye Span. ‘Contrails’ is a very different track for the band, quite melancholy but with intense lead vocals. ‘Won’t Look Back and ‘Once Had’ start off gently and build up to tremendous crescendo’s with brass adding to the finale of each number. I have always loved their use of ukelele, often as a simplistic lead in to a track such as in ‘Win Again’.
This is a richer, fuller more complete listening experience to much of their earlier releases. The album shows off the instrumental, writing and maybe emotional qualities of these guys. They are a joy to experience live and a pleasure to listen to. Wildfire will make you smile, think and feel a little better than if you haven’t heard it.
The band are currently on a headline tour before embarking as support to Bellowhead on their farewell tour in November. Go and check them out. Go and buy their music. Find out for yourself what you’re missing. Find your smile.