(Navigator, 2010)

Bellowhead is an 11-piece English folk band that specializes in high-octane, full-blooded, life-affirming music. Formed by Jon Boden and John Spiers, Hedonism is the group's third studio album and it sounds like a group firmly in the ascendent.

With a range that takes in carnival, music-hall, real folk and everything in between, Bellowhead was described by the UK newspaper The Independent as "surely the best live act in the country." This reputation is apparent on the record, as the group -- which includes a full brass section as well as generous helpings of percussion -- take it to the max on almost every track.

The opening track, "New York Girls," kicks things off in a high tempo, setting the standard for what is to come. Boden's vocal is old-style English folk, but with tons and tons of gusto. Telling the tale of his experience with the eponymous heroines, it's a lovely lively song, and one that is bound to have fans of the band singing along at gigs.

The beguilingly titled "Cross-Eyed & Chinless" is a jaunty number, with brass and percussion setting a groove that wouldn't sound of place on the streets of Brazil. When the fiddles kick in we're already in Carnivale mode.

Other highlights include the stately "Amsterdam," with its classical infusions, and the elegant "Parson's Farewell." The latter sums up what Bellowhead is about: top-quality music played with fun and a sense of joyous experimentation.

The press release states that the group was approached about recording music for the 20th anniversary episode of The Simpsons. I don't know if it happened but, after falling in love with Hedonism, I can definitely imagine Bart & Co. shaking their little yellow butts to this highly original groove sensation.

music review by
Sean Walsh

23 October 2010

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