A really great new discovery for me:
Roving Crows are an English four-piece folk fusion band, based in Worcestershire, England. Since forming in 2009, they have released two albums and received a number of awards.
Singer-Songwriter Paul O’Neill and fiddle player Caitlin Barrett first performed as a duo in 2007, under the name Elysian. In 2009 they decided to expand the line up and change the name to The Roving Crows (the word ‘The’ was later dropped from the name). The band went through several line-up changes early in its life. A self-titled demo album was recorded and released in 2010 with John David at Berryhill Studios with the addition of Mark Miletich on double bass and Phil Hall on drums.
Greg Wilson-Copp joined Roving Crows in 2010 on trumpet, bringing Ska and Soul influences to the sound. By this point the rhythm section had changed to Joe Ball on bass guitar and Josh Balen on drums, and in 2011 this line-up self-recorded and released an EP previewing the new musical style since the debut album.
Tim Tolhurst was recruited on drums after Josh Balen stepped down in 2011, bringing his Jazz influenced percussion to the group. In the same year they won two Irish Music Awards; ‘Top Celtic Rock Band’ and ‘Top Fiddle Player’, accredited to them by the Irish Music Association.
In late 2011 Roving Crows went into Rockfield Studios to record their debut album with producer Nick Brine (who also worked with acts such as Ash, Oasis, Bruce Springsteen, Seasick Steve and The Darkness). Bacchanalia was released on 17 March 2012 with a release party at Gloucester Guildhall and an ensuing tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland including performances at Cambridge Folk Festival, Trowbridge Village Pump Festival, Lakefest, Ireby Folk Festival, Wychwood Festival and Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
In 2012 they won ‘Best Folk Act’ at the Exposure Music Awards as well as being noticed by both national and regional BBC radio stations, including airplay on Mike Harding’s Folk Show and The Paul O’Grady Show
After spending much of 2012 without a bass player, Loz Shaw joined Roving Crows in October 2012 whilst the band were half way through the writing process for their second album. A self-recorded EP simply entitled EP 2013 was released in February 2013 with four new tracks including a live recording of Roving Crows’ arrangement of “Music for a Found Harmonium”. Roving Crows returned to Rockfield Studios in March 2013 to record Deliberate Distractions, again with producer Nick Brine. The album was released on 4 November 2013, attracting 4- and 5- star reviews from publications such as The Financial Times, R2 Magazine and Maverick Magazine. The band was awarded ‘Band of the Year 2013’ in the 2014 Fatea Music Awards, as well as ‘Best Live Band’ in the 2014 Spiral Earth awards.
As a follow-up to Deliberate Distractions, a 15-track live album was recorded at the Watson Hall, Tewkesbury on 21 December 2013. It was released in a limited press at the St. Paddy’s Day Extravaganza on 15 March 2014 at the Gloucester Guildhall, and digitally through Bandcamp on the same date.
Up Heaval is the five track EP released on Saturday 14 March 2015 to coincide with their final concert with Greg Wilson-Copp and Tim Tolhurst. Tolhurst provided session drums on several tracks on the EP, although the use of electronic percussion and synthesizers was prevalent for the first time. The band continued as a trio for several months until recruiting Tim Downes-Hall to play a variety of percussion outside of the constrictions of a traditional Drum kit.
After two years of constant touring including breakthrough tours in France, there was increasing demand for new music. Recording of the group’s third album began in late 2016. This was the first recording to feature Tim Downes-Hall on percussion as well as being the first self-recorded album from the group, with Loz Shaw bass and vocals also handling the recording and production. Many different locations were used for the recording of the large number of layered sounds that feature on the album. Bury Me Naked was released on 8 April 2017 with a launch party at Gloucester Guildhall.
During the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, the band, like all musicians worldwide had all their gigs and tours cancelled. They decided in this time to be productive and remotely record a 5-track EP. Each member recorded their own parts and sent them to Jim Smith who then produced and mixed the EP. Lockdown consisted of 2 new tracks and 3 revamped tracks featuring the foundation line-up of Paul O’Neill and Caitlin Barrett and new additions Jim Smith on bass guitar and Laurence Aldridge on drums. Lockdown was released on 17 July 2020 on CD and online streaming platforms.
Awaken was created from both sides of the Irish Sea – recorded by Simon O’Reilly in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland and mixed by their own Jim Smith in Great Malvern, England. The writing and arrangements were completed by Caitlin and Paul on the west coast of Ireland, in order to further encapsulate the essence of the wild Atlantic represented in the new tracks, it continues the themes and raw feel of Roving Crows’ last album, Bury Me Naked, focusing on the band’s personal outlook on life. All songs are self-penned with the exception of two sets of traditional tunes, Phoenix and Rise. Awaken is set to be released on 4 March 2022 with a launch party at Malvern Cube shortly followed by a tour across the UK.
Due to differing musical backgrounds between band members, the band’s musical influences have varied widely throughout the band’s history and have included traditional Celtic music, Klezmer, Tribal House, Ska, Latino, Jazz, Reggae, Country, Americana and traditional Folk Music. (wikipedia)
It was a few years ago I saw the Roving Crows now. I remember in Bromsgrove.
Not far from Ledbury (their home turf) andalso not far from where I spent my youngest years (in Kidderminster); it was an interesting experience when I was relatively new to folk.
It was not just an introduction to the band and the genre but also the Artrix, a venue that looked like it had descended from space. Modern with sleek edges, its appearance did not match my initial thoughts and with it I brought home a new interest that had developed far away. This was a surprise.Another surprise is Roving Crows’ new album “Bury Me Naked”. I liked the Roving Crows when I saw them but I can’t say I loved them. However, coming one full circle (with many more to go) I can see now that their new album (along with their music) reminds me that social and environmental issues can be “rocked” and “jammed”in music as much as quieter acoustic numbers in the corner of a pub and still be polished and interesting. And so a change of heart has taken place.
“Bury Me Naked” is a fun album. It doesn’t just stick to folk, it goes on a whirlwind tour of pop, rock, and reggae blending it together in an attractive package. There is a mix inside the packaging too. I like the rather earthy photography within the album sleeve; bright and bold it is a contrast to the sharp dark lines and concert photography across the front of the album. It is almost telling you that they are live performers first of all with a hat tip to the social causes they are supporting with their music and tour (drinking eco-friendly water, recycling and vegetarianism). When listening to the album along the way these themes do explicitly rise on the disc. “Refugees”, “Revolution” and “human Regret” you could say the three R’s.
The title track of the album “Bury Me Naked” is great folk rock. After the introduction segment of the song, it really gets going, punching the air as it continues. The fiddle ambushes from the side and an early listen to O’Neill’s voice is smooth and spectral giving it a slightly otherworldly feel. Instrument-wide there is a nice variety between the drums and wooden percussion (Tim Downes-Hall) that scatters down the tracks like the softer patter of a wolf. There is also a bit of menace from the electric guitar as the singer croons, “you said love was a weakness, you’ve got me on my knees.” Taking influence from Native Americans and their suffering it sounds like a scene on prairie land with nature and wildlife all around. It is quite interesting, it changes pace as it casts it’s entrancing spell; it has an epic Celtic Rock spirituality with it’s reverb and hefty backing sound. The same atmosphere calls over to track 2, “New York Love Song” except of course more suburban and with a greater interplay between singers Paul O’Neill and Caitlin Barrett in the vocal department.
“Refugee” is reggae. It doesn’t disguise this, it just is. Sometimes the best things in life are clear and straight and it works a treat here where opulent drums meet with an unabashed fiddle. Being uplifting and a part of a time in history that is still dealing with refugee affairs and how they impact on society, it does stand out as being different to the rest of the current crop of songs about refugees with it’s more sunny outlook. This might bother some people but not me. It does kind of appear from nowhere, you don’t automatically expect reggae but there is a cold place in your heart if the upbeat “sail away.. war-torn refuge.. world does not understand me” rhyming scheme does not put a smile on your face. With a great harmony (the best harmony) on the disc and exquisite fiddle from Caitlin Barrett (as always) it is more than a great addition. “Passing on the Love” is similarly like an Irish Coffee and a Bahama Mama being spilt together by the waiter in this joyous Caribbean mashup. Later on it descends into a kind of Celtic Dancehall track you could do some ska stomping to, it all civilised though and is a treat.
“If I had to choose” is an example of a standout track from the album’s which appeals to a slower, more considered melody. Paul O’Neill sounds at his best and the instruments blend together for a lyrically short, but expansive feeling piece of penultimate entertainment with lines such as, “If I may be so bold; all that glitters is not gold.” It’s rock sound appeals more to me than the more monologue sounding “The Last Breath”, though the latter does carry some beauty with it. Quite distinctly introspective when the track comes on the album it is like that moment you drop a needle on an old Blues record and await the the searching intake of breath before the evocative lyrics.
As previously mentioned the identifiable sound spiritual Rock permeates through many of the tracks here. With this we don’t get the same kind of feeling of remembrance you find in a lot of folk music where a story is told, the moral is clear (or hazy) and we never forget what has happened. Instead much of their sound is like an echo of a unifying cosmic energy that people can approach and understand on their own terms. It all comes to a head with their working of an old folk staple “Ride On”, the final track on the disc.
It is large scale, it is quite resounding and heart-pounding and the arrangement brings a lot, burning an impression like an Eastern Desert’s winds on your face. Barrett captures the ballad sensibility well, wearing influences of alt-rock and dare I say, a quiet grunge in her consistent vocal performance that rises and falls delightfully. One of my favourites, it demonstrates that Roving Crows are not just a band striving for identikit energy tracks that you cannot distinguish on an album, but instead considering fast and slow, thoughtful and energetic in equal measure.
A nice mix of genre and with an spirituality and concern for the world, the Roving Crows set out and have a good time with it, which many would consider contradictory. But it’s not, they entertain and achieve buckets and buckets of likeability along the way.
There is also a good range of tracks with some being more about melody and others more about the words. Jovial and wide-reaching in scope the quality of the music production is second to none. There has certainly been a progression.
More importantly for me, they have dragged me out of the chair, unfolded my arms and invited me to dance. (by Blueestai)
Caitlin Barrett (fiddle, vocals)
Tim Downes-Hall (drums, percussion)
Paul O’Neill (vocals, guitar)
Loz Shaw (bass, keyboards, syntheziser, guitar, clarinet, banjolin, kalimba)
Bast Shaw (accordion on 03.)
01. Bury Me Naked (O’Neill) 5.31
02. New York Love Song (O’Neill) 4.26
03. Refugee (O’Neill) 3.33
04. Riverside (Barrett) 4.11
05. Fire Sky (Barrett/Ferry) 4.23
06. If I Had To Choose (O’Neill) 4.04
07. Passing On The Love (O’Neill) 4.43
08 The Last Breath (O’Neill(Barrett) 4.48
09 Revolution Is Now (O’Neill) 5.234
10. Glory Bound (O’Neill) 9.59
11. Ride On (MacCarthy) 4.41
The official website: