"Astonishing. I mean, I've had a drink but this sounds to me like a landmark ... Bellowhead are taking the music forward with a flair and urgency rarely heard in these parts and I, for one, can't wait for them to make
a proper album." - COLIN IRWIN fRoots Magazine
And - here it is. 'Burlesque' out via Westpark Music. Not so much a Big Band as a small independent country,
Bellowhead is an 11 piece busy pushing the boundaries of English roots music into regions where few have previously dared to tread. Bellowhead's debut gig took place at the first Oxford festival in April 2004, brought together by the
acclaimed folk duo John Spiers & Jon Boden. They dreamt up the band while stuck in traffic somewhere on the M25. John & Jon phoned Paul Sartin, Benji Kirkpatrick and Giles Lewin who all agreed to form the core of the new band while the duo were still on said motorway. The idea was to have an English traditional folk band at the heart of the collective, also capable of switching between a big band sound, funk styles, and a string section. The first gig was an instant success de-spite
the fact that Bellowhead had only managed to spend one afternoon, in a scout hut, rehearsing. Later that same summer, Bellowhead managed to inspire such enthusiasm, on a balmy night at Sidmouth Festival, that an invigorated crowd broke the dance floor.
Interest in the band developed beyond the immediate fringes of the folk scene immediately after the independent
release of the 'E.P.Onymous', a 5 track demo which was initially produced to send to promoters and sell a few at gigs. The response to the EP was so great that the band were persuaded to release it officially and it promptly got a 5 star review in MOJO magazine:
"Though only a five-track EP, the first offering of the Boden & Spiers big band is just too good to be allowed to skulk in the shadows. The likes of Paul Sartin (fiddle) and Benji Kirkpatrick (guitar/bouzouki) join a full blooded horn section to nudge the already formidable Boden & Spiers energy quota to overload and they re-work tracks into a thrilling frenzy.
2005 saw the band play at the prestigious Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow and then sweep up Best Live Act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, where they gave a stunning performance at the televised ceremony. A plethora of festival appearances have since followed suggesting that Bellowhead are on their way to becoming one of the most popular bands on the live music circuit. The audience are left in no doubt as to
the range and sheer virtuosity of this band and at prestigious events around the country - including Summer
Sundae, Beautiful Days and Cambridge folk festival they have rapidly aquired new admirers across generations and genres.
"Burlesque", is Bellowhead's much anticipated full length album. The album includes 13 songs and tunes inspired by a dazzling array of material from the Napoleonic Wars ("Rigs of the Time"), the American minstrel movement ("Jordan"), sea-shanties from Brazil ("Across the Line") and the spirit of the East Anglian step dance tradition "Sloe Gin". The lead singer, Jon Boden, struts and emotes much like a grandson of Mick Jagger and the ensemble playing of all of the musicians is superb. It is not simply the technical ability of the
individual players that impressess but also the sheer musicality of the arrangements.
By 2006, the band had long since transcended the idea of simply being a folk band with some brass players. They have honed a unique style, which sets them apart. Deeply rooted in the English folk dance tradition, they also merge a joyous, uplifting cacophony of sound with a slightly sinister, distorted collision of music hall, Lotte Lenya, Robert Wyatt and pure theatre. Among others, Bellowhead played The Big Chill, Larmer Tree, TFF Rudolstadt, Roskilde Festival, Summer Sundae, Beautiful Days, Cambridge Folk Festival and Womad UK too.