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The Albion Band
Over the last three or four years, Hedley Jones has squeezed into his little summerhouse all manner of singers and musicians from the solitary figures of Eric Taylor, Pamela Wyn Shannon and Rory McLeod to the combined forces of such duos as Madison Violet and Rachel Harrington and Zak Borden with further attempts to squeeze in even trios such as Chloe Hall's or Sharon King's respectively. The madness continued with various attempts to shoe-horn in unfeasibly large double basses courtesy of Miranda Sykes and the Toy Hearts, who also expanded further with a quartet format, as did Rosie Doonan with her Snapdragons and Emily Barker's lovely Red Clay Halo. With Georgia's very own Larkin Poe, not only did we see a four-piece band performing in the little Wheelhouse, but also with the addition of a full drum kit, which had us all quietly thinking that Hedley Jones had finally gone mad.
Now three years on from those humble beginnings, which at the time underwent the logical progression from a marquee on the Jones family lawn, Mr Jones has reached full blown insanity as he squeezed the entire six-piece Albion Band into his garden shed, smothering them all in proverbial butter in order to fit them all into one end where the stage usually stands, together with an eager and enthusiastic capacity audience. With everyone safely in and with Andy the barman at his usual place behind the bar and Mr Jones perched awkwardly in front of the sound desk, everyone was suitably ready to enjoy a couple of excellent sets by the newly refreshed and refurbished folk rock combo that was formed by singer/guitarist/bassist Blair Dunlop's ol' man Ashley Hutchings way back in 1971.
Despite Blair Dunlop's envious lineage (his mum, the wonderful Brampton-born singer and dancer Judy Dunlop), The Albion Band appear not to have any particular leader within the group, with each member contributing an equal share to the proceedings, whether that be Gavin Davenport's songwriting and unmistakable vocal prowess, Kat Gilmore's fiddle and mandolin playing and wry sense of humour, Tom Wright's sharp wit together with his percussion and sticks credentials, Tim Yates' alternating melodeon and bass duties and not forgetting Benjamin Trott's vitally assured lead guitar runs. The newly formed Albion Band appear to be a highly democratic unit with a shared love of the material both new and old.
Performing just about every song and tune from the new album THE VICE OF THE PEOPLE, the band re-arranged much of the material to suit a slightly more stripped-down set, reducing the number of instruments, monitors and pedal combinations for the occasion. Curiously enough Tim Yates chose this one particular show in their current tour to introduce his double bass, a challenge Hedley Jones was only too happy to sort out. Is there no limit to this man's eagerness to please? With the big fiddle installed at one end of the shed, the little fiddle was at the other and in the capable hands of Kat Gilmore, no stranger to the Wheelhouse, who once again delighted the audience with songs and tunes such as Coalville and The 2x2 Set respectively.
Recalling some of the earlier Albion Band repertoire such as John Tams' memorable Ragged Heroes and the Phil Beer/Francois Villon song Set Their Mouths To Twisting, the band also included a couple of Richard Thompson classics such as Roll Over Vaughan Williams and the ever popular Time To Ring Some Changes, which segued seamlessly into the final song of the set Wake A little Wiser. That final song was introduced as the one that contains the band's basic ethos, with the ever bewildering question of why our most famous celebrities have the fame whilst other deserving people remain unknown. This said, it was nice to be introduced to two of the band's most treasured road companions, Lincoln the Lobster and the ever-so-kitch portrait of the heavily moustachioed Magnum PI, which remained at the band's feet throughout their set.
A landmark occasion then for the Wheelhouse as The Albion Band took their final bows leaving an indelible impression on the audience whilst achieving at the same time a record-breaking appearance at the popular South Yorkshire venue, which will probably take some beating. The Brighouse and Rastrick Band next Hedley?