Troubshort and Turnipseed

  Review by: Jeremy Isaac
  Record Label: Mighty Fine Music TATCD001
  Star Rating:



One always wants to encourage homegrown talent, but this debut CD from British duo Reg Troubshort (banjo and mandola) and Abner Turnipseed (guitar, dulcimer, harmonica and tea-chest bass) is an unusual offering to be sure. Frequent and popular performers on the British festival circuit who have also toured in mainland Europe, the pair have played the folk scene for many years with the Oxford-based Appalachian clog dancing group Cornucopia and the Shady Grove String Band. What is unusual about DARK CLOUDS OVER DIDCOT is its combination of competent, workmanlike bluegrass instrumentation worthy of some of the best US string bands, with down-to-earth British humour found in the clubs and vocals mixing old English folk singing of the kind associated with the Morris Men with cod western accents. Certainly there are no classic harmonies here—but that’s not really what this album is about.

Consequently, decent instrumentals include the opening Wood Smoke Through The Birches, a mid-paced guitar and banjo piece, albeit punctuated by silly vocal interjections, Turnipseed’s dulcimer-led Foggy Mountain Morris and Troubshort’s busy banjo on the catchy Brinkinfield Breakdown. These are just three of several solid instrumentals, the others including the title track, 2 By 4/Fence Panel, the pleasant dulcimer tones of Rabbit In The Rain and the gentle closer, After The Snow Has Gone. In contrast with these cool instrumentals, the humour and daft character voices of, say, Bold Yogurt Maker, Phone Song (which retains something of the Pipkins’ 1970 hit Gimme Dat Ding), the pacey Mackesons, and Hong Kong Johnson will not be to all tastes, their vocal performances conjuring up an unholy mixture of British Scrumpy and Western band the Wurzels and 1990s country comedy act Run C&W.

Like a soccer match of two halves, DARK CLOUDS OVER DIDCOT is a CD of two sides. The instrumentals are enjoyable and well-performed (recalling the 1972 film Deliverance in places) and are serious pieces of music (hence three stars), but the wry, humorous material, while undoubtedly going down well with an ale at a festival on a summer’s afternoon, will not be everybody’s cup of tea. I know how po-faced this must sound—we are talking about comedy after all—but while DARK CLOUDS OVER DIDCOT would make a memorable souvenir of a fun afternoon or evening out, Troubshort and Turnipseed need to balance their sound musicianship with a few self-penned straight ballads in order to garner any kind of serious musical acclaim. But as noted, perhaps that’s not what this album is about.

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