"... the most significant recording of traditional English music since Liege & Leaf" - (Songlines Magazine)
"They don't do anything by halves, this lot. Incredibly, given their awards, headlining festival appearances, cover features and reputation as the best live roots band in the land, this is the first proper Bellowhead album. The 5-track E.P.Onymous set out their stall in thrilling manner in 2004 and we've been gagging for the full montague ever since. Wild, joyous, perverse, bold, crazed, full-blooded, intricate, fearless, funny, epic and mostly BIG. Bellowhead don't disappoint" - (fRoots Magazine)
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 despite 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.
Jon Boden – lead singer / fiddle / tambourine (other line-ups Spiers & Boden / Eliza Carthy & the Ratcatchers / solo album) - Influences: Peter Bellamy, Tom Waits
John Spiers – melodeon / midi-melodeon / concertina / backing vocals (other line-ups Spiers & Boden / Eliza Carthy & the Ratcatchers) - Influences: Morris Dance music, John Kirkpatrick / 70’s funk / disco
Benji Kirkpatrick – guitar / bouzouki / mandolin / banjo / backing vocals (other line ups: Faustus / with Seth Lakeman / Oysterband big session) - English folk background
Rachael McShane – cello / fiddle / (co-singer on tracks Jordan and Death & The Lady) backing vocals (other line-ups: Crosscurrent) - Rachael has just completed the Newcastle University folk degree course and comes from an Irish music background
Paul Sartin – fiddle / oboe / backing vocals (other Line-ups: Faustus / Belshazzars Feast) - English folk background. Paul recently completed a Masters degree in traditional music at Newcastle University, and is engaged in academic work, research and teaching. As well as English folk music, he has worked extensively in English choral music in Oxford and Winchester
Giles Lewin – fiddle / bagpipes / backing vocals (other line-ups: The Dufay collective / The Carnival Band / Giles Lewin & Vivien Ellis) - From Oxford, Giles is not only an Irish fiddler with a great track record, he has also studied Arabic music in Cairo.
Pete Flood – percussion / frying pan / glockenspiel / wind-up toys / megaphone - A delightfully eccentric percussionist at the heart of the band (other line-ups: The Farmyard Animals / Van Eyken)