Cameron Pattinson reviews Man the Lifeboats’s eclectic, folk-infused second album, Soul of Albion.
By Cameron Pattinson (He/him)
Despite being a self-professed music fan, Man The Lifeboat’s sophomore album Soul of Albion was a thoroughly unique listen for me. A rollicking yet sincere album packed with fervour and fiddles that simultaneously isn’t afraid to slow down and create mellow moments throughout its 42-minute runtime, this is an LP well worth anyone’s time.
Consisting of Rick Quarterman (lead vocals, guitar), Aaron Horlock (banjo, accordion, mandolin, guitar, vocals), Sam Barker (bass), Dan Gilroy (fiddle, Stroh violin, tin whistle and vocals), and David Vaughan (drums, percussion, piano), Man The Lifeboats stated mission is to “drag traditional folk tunes kicking and screaming into the 21st century.” A vision is shown clear as day throughout this album as they dance between ideas (some admittedly better than others) while centring their approach around creating snapshots of Britain, mirroring the journey a close friend of the band took around the British Isles. This approach allows the band to create a series of vignettes on each song in just a few short minutes and is ultimately one of the album’s greatest strengths.
Take the boisterous ‘Somerstown’ for example where, despite committing the cardinal sin of trying to rhyme the same word with itself on the chorus, an inner-city district in London is transformed into a lawless and unruly shanty town, seemingly plucked straight from a Spaghetti Western, completed with soaring fiddles and jangling guitar – serenading Quarterman’s tale of this debaucherous place.
Contrast that with the following track, ‘County Kilburn’, a song that kicks off with a grooving baseline in an atypical time signature that you would expect to be found on a modern rock album as opposed to one centred around folk. Even once the track is filled out with an accordion and fiddle, it retains that unique quality, making it one of the album’s most enjoyable tracks.
Opener and lead single ‘Born Drunk’ is a track I am rather conflicted about in comparison. It is an undeniably jaunty and enjoyable track that opens the album with a bang; however, when compared to the narratives weaved on subsequent songs, this disjointed lyricism on this track leads it to be a rather strange choice for the album’s introduction.
The title track ‘Soul of Albion’ is probably the album’s first true blip as its 6-minute runtime and rather surface-level lyricism combine for an unsavoury combination, ultimately creating a track that starts promisingly but ends on a whimper.
Thankfully, though, it is followed by the instrumental ‘Herbert the Sherbert/The Floating Candle,’ which not only has the greatest title on the album but is also a thoroughly enjoyable track that continues to build and layer upon itself throughout its 3-and-a-half minute length.
Man the Lifeboats proceeds to cap off the album successfully on ‘A New Jerusalem’. A beautiful instrumental made up simply of a guitar and a fiddle accompanying Quarterman’s softly sung, poignant words. The heartfelt song may well be the album’s highlight and helps to close the LP on a graceful and satisfactory note – a fitting end.
Man The Lifeboats may not be the most typical band you ever come across, and their brand of folk will undoubtedly not be for everyone. All in all, I would still recommend this album as its enjoyable premise, fantastic instrumentation, and imaginative storytelling help make this a unique listening experience.
Soul of Albion was released on 14th October via Wood Head Records and is available to buy here.
Pitch given by Danny Munro
Edited by Theerada Moonsiri