You may gather from the name of this website that it is aimed at reviewing, and talking about, Progressive Rock and, most of the time, that would be an entirely correct assumption to make.
However, I am not just a prog-rock fan, I am a music fan first and foremost and that means any type of music that catches my ear as being different and just bloody good to listen to.
I’ve written reviews of hard rock, heavy metal, folk, blues and even viking metal (no, me neither!), you name it, I’ll listen to it and write about it if I think it fits into my warped view of what makes good listening material.
Folk driven they may be but that’s about where the similarity to traditional folk begins and ends with the North-East’s Driven Serious, a band who I was introduced to by the excellent Hartlepool based photographic artist Howy White.
Howy put me in touch with the band’s main-man Rob Jones, who introduced me to their blend of punk, folk, steam-punk and general mayhem and I haven’t looked back yet….
Driven Serious formed in 2011 and has been gigging in the North
East and beyond since 2012 with its current lineup – charismatic
frontman and songwriter Rob Jones, award-winning Shetland
fiddler Cathy Geldard, bassist and multi-instrumentalist Tim
Packer and drummer and percussionist Johnnie Walker – to which
they now add the stunning voice and cello of Katie Hall.
‘Ballad of Bones’, follows up their 2013 album ‘The Importance of Being
Serious’ and showcases new fifth member, cellist and vocalist
This 4 track E.P. sees live favourite Ballad of Bones given a studio release alongside three tracks recorded live at headlining shows at Newcastle’s Cluny and Middlesborough’s Twisted Lip.
The title track is a really emotive five minutes of exquisite folk rock which only occasionally betrays the band’s punk undertones. The string biased opening frames Rob’s distinctive vocal as he begins to tell you his tale. The gentle folk heavy backing music is really well crafted and removes any rough edges. When the track picks up pace it becomes a real foot-tapper, the drums leading the rhythm section quite impressively. The harmonies on the melancholy chorus are just about perfect. When you go past the two-and-a-half minute mark there is a dramatic, short instrumental interlude that just makes you stop and think for a bit. This is really intelligent and, at times, uplifting folk music with a rocky edge to it and, I for one, really like it.
The three live tracks are utterly compelling and will make you want to go see these remarkable musicians play live as soon as you possibly can. Sinking Sand (recorded live at The Cluny) is dynamic and edgy with a really memorable and emotive chorus. The staccato violins are ably supported by the pumping bassline and Rob delivers some heartfelt vocals, again, the punk tendencies seem to be keeping a low profile on this song, the violin solo with bass accompaniment that close out the track is actually quite exuberantly spine-tingling. Crucifix Kiss (recorded at The Twisted Lip) is a more low key and gentle affair. Maybe not quite ‘get your lighters in the air’ but, you know where I’m coming from. On this song the stringed instrument is king, providing a really sombre and wistful backdrop to the pensive and emotive vocal. Everything changes about half-way through as that mournful air seems to dissipate somewhat and a feeling of the sun breaking through the dark clouds emerges. These extremely competent musicians lay a vivid backdrop of music that really appeals. Fasten your seat belts, the blue touch paper has been lit and off we go! World of Fear (again recorded live at The Cluny) definitely has that punky edge to it, edgy riffing and a superb electric violin power this strident track along at a breakneck speed. Rob takes on a bit of the wild man in his vocal delivery, a hot and sweaty cauldron of intensely theatrical music that assaults the senses to leave you battered, bruised and yet with an inane grin on your face as the animated violin continues to hit you from all sides.
An utterly irresistible force of nature, these self-styled ‘punk-folk’ exponents deliver on all fronts. It’s Folk music Jim, but not quite as you may know it (to paraphrase Gene Roddenberry), it’s a whirling vortex of energy and musical nous and one that I hope to revisit soon.
Released 5th March 2016
Buy ‘Ballad of Bones’ from bandcamp
Featured Image: Howy White. Ballad of Bones cover: John Chadwick, The Importance of Being Serious cover: Sara Borges. Live image: Paula Smart.