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Record Review: The Lords Of Thyme

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Pellets [Sunstone Records]

Midlands quartet ‘da Lords’, as no one probably calls them, are the quintessential folk-psych, West Coast-harmonising band who play like the calendar got stuck on 1972. On this evidence, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that mindset. The group first came together as musicians in Circulus, and the nucleus/driving force of the band is Northants-based husband and wife team Joe and Michelle Woolley. Joe wrote five of the eight songs here, and arranged two of the traditional numbers.

Pellets originally was released on CD in 2016, but recently the group were approached by Sunstone to produce a vinyl version. This run is limited to just 200 copies; it also gave the band a chance to re-order the tracks into a more satisfying sequence. Now the album begins with ‘Burton Town’, possibly their most Pentangle-y song, which isn’t surprising as it’s on the first Pentangle album. Also tried out by Sandy Denny, you immediately get where they’re coming from. Michelle’s siren-song folk delivery is mesmerising from the first note, laid over tasteful organ and intertwining, earthy hand-picked guitar lines. Following a lovely solemn rendition of another traditional, ‘George Collins’, the listener is treated to the talents of J. Woolley and Tali Trow. ‘The Bird It Sang’ is more in tune with a Byrdsian worldview, riding a confident wave of up-tempo jangle, topped off with a wonderful dramatic chorus.  Side one finishes with ‘Morning Came’, a plaintive rumination from Joe that recalls a solo Bert Jansch in all its honest, down-home singing. It’s a real stunning number, truth be told.

Side two begins with the epic melancholy of ‘Coming Down’, and introducing some mellifluous pedal steel guitar lines weaving in and out of some equally impressive Hammond playing. Is that jazz drumming too? It’s an ambitious, weighty and beautifully stoned number the band should be justly proud of (as they can of the whole album). ‘Freight Train to Rainham’ comes out of the leftfield a bit, very much a John Mayall workout that’s bluesy and probably a lot of fun to jam on. Pellets finishes with ‘Keep On Travelling’, a West Coast psych-rocker that patiently builds and builds, swirling through the fog of tyme to bring us one step closer to the beatnik-hippy dreamworld.

The album is a luxurious sounding thing, and perfectly suited to the vinyl format. If we’re allowed a little critique it perhaps would benefit from being a bit more dog-eared at times, to give greater range and depth to the overall vision. The songwriting and musicianship are beyond reproach, though – this is an album we will be talking about in twenty years time. No matter what format you hear it in, just make sure it comes into your life, and soon.

Phil Moore

Pellets is out now on LP via Sunstone

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