Lands End – The Border Sessions
Interesting and expansive music from Lands End, a young five piece, the members of which represent five instruments, three countries, and an interesting mix of musical traditions.
The band revolve around the fulcrum of Sore Fingers, where they met and first performed. The annual workshop-cum-festival has seen the development of many a group within the UK and beyond, and after Lands End’s debut at the event, they have not looked back. The group’s members, Paddy Kiernan (banjo), Richie Foley (mandolin), Hubert Murray (guitar and vocals), Sam Rose (bass, guitar) and Bruno Pichler (dobro) originally made their homes in cities across Ireland, England and Germany, and indeed, ‘Lands End’ hints at the fact that each member comes from a different geographical location.
With influence from bluegrass, the band’s sound is not afraid to take in Irish and Baltic music, and perform sets of original material alongside versions of well-known tunes from America and Europe. They have put together an EP of songs available on Bandcamp and CD which feature the fiddle of Sam Draper, who is currently studying in Boston.
The Leadbelly song Out On The Western Plain struts and swings, and the Irish feel to the boys’ bluegrass is immediately obvious, especially in the lifting, lilting fiddle and mandolin. The lead vocals are especially strong, and the storytelling is handled with seriousness and poise as well as good humour. That the band know their licks is an understatement, and the playing is as good as the band’s origins would suggest.
There’s a definite swagger to be found throughout The Border Sessions, a sound of a band happy to be playing and picking, and the enthusiasm is infectious on cuts like Sunstreet, where the sound ventures slightly West, with influences from old time swing and cowboy music, and Hubert somewhat coming close to a modern-day Jimmie Rodgers (minus the yodelling, for now). The backing is once again firm and robust, with some exceptional dobro and fiddle touches. Equally, the flowing instrumental Salt Spring brings the bands dynamism into play, with the different sounds playing off each other, with a whole achieved which is the addition of all the parts and more.
The boys’ take on Wild Bill Jones is full of life, bringing the perennial bad man ballad into some serious modern territory. A strong sense of beat and rhythm pervades, as is a willingness to put themselves fully into the singing and playing. Lands End are proof not only of the power of the traditions that they tap into, but the ease with which the music is adapted and brought into the hands of the musicians who treat them with the respect they deserve.
Closer Run Buddy Run is another from the pen of Hugh Murray, whose songwriting ability is well rounded for one so young. The entire EP is highly professional, of a very high quality and sets their path for some very exciting times to come. I look forward to hearing more from this talented group in the future.