Sunday , September 20 2020

CD Review: Clive Palmer, All Roads Lead to Land

This creaky solo effort from the Incredible String Band‘s longtime banjo player only hints at the accomplishments of the British folk revival. The songs are mostly forgettable and the singing is, well, not good.

It’s true that great singing was never ISB’s strong point, but the band projected an everyperson sincerity and enthusiasm that made you feel you were sitting in a comfortable living room by a fire singing good songs with good friends. Folk (and even outsider music) vocals can be affectless or amateurish and still convey deep feeling, but Palmer, here, just sounds weary and emotionally flat.

The members of ISB could (and can – see their recent reunion release, Just Like the Ivy) – really play. The flowing quality of their instrumental interplay was always a big part of their appeal, with Palmer, an acknowledged master of the banjo, a major element in that chemistry. But here, even his banjo playing (front and center on most of these tracks) is often dull and non-evocative, unable to carry the weight it’s asked to bear. And when other instruments provide atmospherics, as in “Paris,” the vocals can’t match the musicality of the instrumental fills and solos.

“Breizh” is an interesting, wordless chant – from Brittany, I assume – accompanied only by pipes. I also rather liked “Linden Lea,” a William Barnes poem set to a tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams, while the banjo solo “Dans La Campagne” is a good example of Palmer’s tasteful, light touch on the instrument. But except for a few such spots, the parts don’t add up to a very satisfying musical experience. Much better to hear this well-respected musician in his element: with the Incredible String Band.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is a Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.

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