Ian King: Panic Grass and Fever Few (Wing and a Prayer)

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Ian King: Death and the Lady
Ian King: Panic Grass and Fever Few (Wing and a Prayer)

King is in the vanguard of a diferent kind of British folk -- witness that this debut album is co-produced with Adrian Sherwood and Skip (Little Axe) McDonald. So this is folk with a world view and a dub feel -- and sounds all the better for it.

King is straight out of that earnest, well-enunciated and slightly stern school of vocal delivery, and his material draws from old recordings (some very old indeed) and Playford's famous collection, a song by Shakespeare (from Measure for Measure) and an older version of Hamlet . . . as well as a powerful banjo-dub original in Evil Eye.

But it is what they do with them which really makes this album an ear-catcher: the opener Adieu to Old England is British folk alright but -- as with Death and the Lady, and Black Eyed Susan which follow -- his guitar sounds as if it owes something to the brooding desert blues of Tinariwen, Etran Finatawa and others.

The 19th century Four Loom Weaver initially sounds the most traditional here . . . . until the reggae horns, bouncing bass and dubbery comes into play. Yet King and crew never lose sight of the song.

His own By George sounds like it might have been written three centuries ago -- and recorded in Jamaica three decades ago.

The disappointment here is that King's delivery on the more earthy material (notably the tale of woe and debauchery on Flash Company) sounds far too disconnected and poised: you don't get the sense there was much debauchery or that he feels the hurt of the lesson learned. He doesn't sound like he's been a convict transported for 10 long years on Isle of France either.

That polite emotional remove lets down a few of these 13 tracks, but for the most part -- and the Shakespeare is brief, lovely and almost dub-free -- this gently encouraged marriage of British folk, Jamaican dub consciousness and world music guitar/percussion makes this a very interesting debut.

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