The collaboration between Spikedrivers and duo Fran McGillivray & Mike Burke has created Saints and Sinners. This promises something very special five vocals and a plethora of instrumental skills promises a treat of traditional music delivered harmoniously. Is this the first time where two women bassist/vocalists perform on the same album? Going Over Home is stamping its mark with a winning combination.
Opening with Keep Your Hand On The Plow, we are transported back to a time where the ploughing of a straight line was an acknowledged and essential skills. Ben leads the spiritual gospel fuelled number combining southern blues with English Folk music. The link is music brings hope and a medium to articulate your hurts, needs and fortitude. This opening track brings you the fortitude of Keeping your hand on the plow.
Fran McGilvery’s beautiful folk/roots vocals brings a melodic beauty to the track Up Above My Head a traditional number that has been revitalised by the intricate instrumentation and vocals as clear as a mountain stream.
Train Done Gone, written in 2002. This is a much loved Spikedrivers number and a perennial crowd favourite given a new zesty twist with Fran and Mike joining them. The driving bass and drums bring a rhythm that keeps you moving , whist never copying the sound of a train it is the click of the wheels passing over the tracks that is captured.
Now we are asked to fly away as the vocals of Fran McGillivray and Constance Redgrave join is delightful harmony on a version of the well-known I’ll Fly Away and number full of charm and is a delight to sit back and chill out with.
Fran, stays the vocals on the traditional blues number Hear Me Talking to Ya, a regular number when Fran and Mike play live, the harmonies added by Ben & Constance give this song a new up lift. Proving once again the Blues are still relevant and have a message as pertinent to today’s audiences as when Ma Rainey, sang this number. The song takes no prisoners in laying down the rules: “ You wanna be my man, you better pack it with you when you come!”
From Ma Rainey we now go back with Robert Johnson to the Crossroads, with Ben on vocal duties. This is a carefully crafted mix of the original lifted by mixing in some Cream in to the recipe of sound. The resonator guitar tuned in open G Minor and the bands interpretation has given the Crossroads a dark and mysterious air.
Constance leads the vocals and weaves in some extra lyrics into this version of St James Infirmary Blues. Here distinctive percussive sound another trademark Constance sound adds another layer of textured sound. This number is a sad tale up lifted by the instrumentation and the approach this talented group of musicians bring to the party. They have combined the English traditional folk song dating back to 1800’s with the American folk song ‘Gambler’s Blues which it is sometimes known by.
Another song of a women telling how it is as Fran adds extra lyrics to an old song recorded by Bessie Smith. This is a sassy, uplifting number that will get those feet tapping as the Good Old Wagon roles into town. Listen out the Kazoo makes a guest appearance!
Nobody’s Fault But Mine a Willie Johnson classic with ben taking up the reins of leading the vocals. Many people heard this for the first time on Led Zeppelin’s album Presence. The simple message is what gives this song its strength and longevity.
A traditional number that Ry Cooder re-interpreted and this is Saints and Sinners re-interpretation of Cooder’s interpretation. Jesus On The Mainline has a great sing-along element it cries out for a live audience. A jolly upbeat number upbeat with the questions asked and the answers well call him up! You can hear how much they all enjoyed bringing this song to the album
On If You’se A Viper. Maurice McElroy picks up the lead vocal duties with some additional lyrics. The suggestion that Maurice did a cover of this number came from Ben’s mum Patzy. Stuff Smith originally recorded this and it has appeared on many albums over the years since the 1930’s. This era is captured with a Yazoo and guitar. We are in the world of the Speakeasies. This is a fabulous number to close the album out the harmonising and joy of playing the music they love. Maurice’s extra chorus closes with ‘everything be cool and minty fresh’ that sums up the whole album perfectly.
Death Came a’Knocking is the penultimate number give the Saints and Sinners treatment. The duo of Fran & Mike lead the vocals. A song that resonates in these times of a global pandemic – with the message is strong and insistent –when the call comes, be ready!
Closing out the album with Ain’t Nobody’s Business given a shake up and face lift some verses are taken out and Fran has written a new part that brings the song in line with modern sensibilities. Again this shows the resilience of these old songs. This will not be the first or last time the lyrics a have been adapted for the times.
Saints and Sinners have been bold throughout the album with strong resetting of numbers we love so well. These are songs based on music from the mists of time before recordings. Like life music must not be set in aspic, the journey of the music needs to evolve and speak to the audience of the here and now.
Throughout the album the coming together of musicians who understand the integrity and authenticity of traditional blues, roots and folk music. They are never curtailed by the past as they add a twist of modernity, a soupçon of their soul to mix a cocktail of delights
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – The perfect blending of traditional and originality as the voices harmonise and the instrumentation is a pure delight.
1. Keep Your Hand On The Plow
2. Up Above My Head
3. Train Done Gone
4. I’ll Fly Away
5. Hear Me Talkin’ At Ya
7. St. James Infirmary Blues
8. Good Old Wagon
9. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
10. Jesus On The Mainline
11. If Yu’se A Viper
12. Death Came Knockin’
13. Ain’t Nobody’s Business
Saints & Sinners are:
Fran McGillivray; vocals, bass guitar, high strung guitar.
Ben Tyzack; vocals, guitars
Mike Burke; vocals, guitars
Constance Redgrave; vocals, bass guitar, percussion
Maurice McElroy; vocals, drums, percussion