I’ve been quite familiar with the music of BILL FARROW for 20 years or more now. In fact since our mutual friend, ROB WHEATON (a one-time member of Bill’s BONNEVILLE TWINS, and currently the guitarist in folk band DEVONBIRD) lent me some of Bill’s CDs (including the quirkily named “The French Can’t Make Mangles Like We Can”); plus a recording of a Radio Essex session that he’d done in the early ’90s.
So I was pleased when Bill popped round to my place recently, along with his current collaborator RICHIE MILTON, en route to do another radio session (this time at PHOENIX FM, in Brentwood, Essex), and handed over a copy of their latest EP entitled “Skiffleodeon” (Right Track Records, 2014. RTR-S 08014). I was honoured when Bill asked me to review it on my blog. ‘Be kind’ he asked – well, I’ll be honest, Bill!
Well, once they’d gone, I tuned into Phoenix FM and listened to the session. Their appearance was linked to another article running that day about the scandal of so many English pubs closing down lately. Farrow’s song ‘Pulling All The Boozers Down’ (from the new EP) was then, very appropriate. They’re performance was very good; demonstrating plenty of experience of playing live. Some amusing banter ensued; and later they played another track from the new EP: Milton’s ‘BBQ Chicken And Wine’. A good little session. I enjoyed it.
Later I played the EP. It is a collection of six new songs: three from Milton; and three from Farrow. Well I said I’d be honest; so here it is….. To be fair it was pretty much what I expected (but that’s not a criticism) – I think its a great little collection of original material. Anyone who knows me, knows that I like skilful guitar playing (regardless of genre), and interesting, clever, and/or amusing lyrics. I got all that with this EP, so I wasn’t disappointed.
The opening track ‘That Rock Island Line’ (penned by Farrow) is a kind of potted history of Skiffle; based on the oft-covered classic ‘Rock Island Line’. The lyric cleverly mentions many a famous British musician who cut his teeth as a Skiffle man in the ’50s and ’60s. Its a foot tapper – a good start. The same vibe continues on the second offering; ‘Chicken In The Yard’ (also by Farrow). It must be a tough ol’ life down on the farm in Dagenham, Bill! Its another good song with effective guitar work.
The next two songs are Milton’s: ‘Don’t Know Where I’m Going’ has some fine acoustic guitar; and Masters’ bass is very good. A great song. And ‘Ms.Sippie Brown’ is a lively little rag. I haven’t heard a rag for ages, so it made a nice change for me to hear. Its a good’un too; made me smile in appreciation. Once again lovely acoustic geetar!
Feeling a little peckish? I recommend some ‘BBQ Chicken And Wine’. This is one of Milton’s too. This is another enjoyable song. I particularly liked Cotton on the ‘Jo-anna’; the ‘cluckin’ guitar; and the retorted backing vocals.
Finally, the highlight of the disc for me is ‘Pulling All The Boozers Down’, by Farrow. It actually covers a very serious subject (as I stated above): the decline of the good ol’ English ‘watering hole’. But its actually a lot of fun, with a simple but effective sing-a-long chorus – the sort of song that is at its best, played live in a pub (assuming you can still find one open!); and the more real-ale you quaff, the more you’ll enjoy it!
The Milton-Farrow Skiffle’n’Blues Band consists of: Richie Milton (Guitar and vocals); Bill Farrow (Guitar and vocals); Alan Glen (Harmonica); Eddie Masters (Upright bass); Graham Hollingworth (Drums); and Roger Cotton (keyboards). Competent musicians all. Production and recordings (at Roundel Studios, Kent) are very good too. It has a simple sleeve with good basic info. I’m recommending this EP to anyone who has a broad interest in Skiffle’n’Blues. Best get down the pub now, before last orders!
Now, where did I leave me ol’ Mum’s washboard? PTMQ
Richie Milton’s website is here…… http://www.richiemilton.co.uk
Here’s a vid of the band in the studio playing ‘Pulling All The Boozers Down’…….