Tuesday, 6 November 2012



I’m a bit of a latecomer to this young folk duo but let me tell you one thing before I continue; after hearing this latest album and seeing them perform live recently, I will be soaking up as much as I can get my hands on from now on! I’m not in the least bit surprised they are an award-winning pair (Best Original Song for Fleetwood Fair – Hancock Award) and if The Innocent Left  doesn’t pick up at least a few awards here and there over the next year then the awarding committees all need sacking and replacing with people who have proper taste.

I love how it manages to make use of traditional folk roots without sounding anything like just another folk record. To its credit, it is much more diverse and versatile. There’s a wonderful rich mixture of sounds bought into the mix thanks not only to the tremendous talents of Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts on their respective violin, mandolin and guitar but courtesy of the featured guests too. With Ben Nicholls (Seth Lakeman) on double bass and Tom Chapman of the Urban Folk Quartet bringing his exceptional percussion skills to the table, the end result is one of charming musical perfection.

Opening with two original songs drawing deep from that folk-inspired well even these have enough passion and creativity poured into them they transcend any simple categorisation. The first amounts to Jamie’s Ode to the Scarecrow with a prominent violin lining the fields as its character is painted in vivid multidimensional colours. You end up really feeling for the sad sorry failure come the final round of what is a beautiful smooth chorus. This leads into Kat’s inspiring tale Doctor James. Based on the true story of military surgeon James Miranda Stuart Barry, this song breathes life into a purposely long forgotten tale. It’s always great to learn new things from music as I’d never before heard this story. After living life as a man and becoming Inspector General in charge of military hospitals, it was discovered he was actually a she and thus why the name was seemingly deleted from history. Music that educates like this should really be used in schools.

The remarkable start moves up to lofty heights with Shuffle & Deal. This song leaps so far ahead you have to race to keep up. And race you will, as far as you have to in order to hear it, even if you were to lose both lungs in the process. It is such a special track and for all the other greats on the album, this one can’t help but stand out a mile. While the opening two keep one foot firmly in the traditional camp, Shuffle & Deal is the first to move so far beyond those boundaries. This only serves to bolster its magnificence and show how comfortable and adept this duo is at just making truly great music. The backing vocals come in the shape of the US sister duo Larkin Poe who sing over Kat’s chorus of simple yet highly emotive stretched out single words. Every millisecond of this song is a work of pure fine art ending with many perfectly placed instruments that hitch along for the ride before it finishes just as delicately as it started. 

It is evident both musicians have worked hard, not only on nailing the perfect musical arrangements but also on the song writing. It is razor sharp. The subject matter covered is a wonderfully varied blend to tantalise all possible tastes. It feels so precise and if there was a mathematical formula for the perfect mix then this album has applied it. That’s not to say it feels in any way rigid as a result. Quite the opposite, there is a breathtaking fluidity that carries you through the whole adventure. At times it renders you lying on a lilo floating gently downstream to the beauty of real-life based Louis Was A Boxer and sat nav tribute, Silver Screen. Yes, a song even about those trusted/troublemaking navigation devices comes courtesy of Kat and is one bathed in the same quality and splendour as the rest. Others grab you by the feet, pull you up and send you flying through invisible rapids, particularly the two instrumentals Seven Left For Dead and Over Snake Pass. Both have magical properties, splicing and dicing their way through multiple dimensions, taking you along for the rip-roaring ride. Then there's Letters, a deeply moving number where the vocals have the power to break your heart. They convey the emotional turmoil of Kat's Danish great-grandmother waiting to hear news of her son as she worked for the BBC World Service during the Second World War.

There’s only one actual traditional song featured in the form of Jamie’s rewriting of False Knight On The Road. Having now heard a number of previous versions by a range of different artists from Steeleye Span, Hart and Prior and even the mighty Fleet Foxes, False Knight blows them all out the water to be quite honest. Finally, there’s irony afoot but with arms as Jamie’s closing ballad, The Stealing Arm is a retelling of John Ashton’s The Thief’s Arm about an amputation that went somewhat rather wrong. It’s a great way to bring the album to a close with its hook-laden chorus that embeds itself inside your head and as ever Jamie’s vocals sound amazing.

This album is a real breath of fresh air. While maintaining all important links to the folk genre it smashes through any walls and divides, crossing safely into many other areas.  To widen its appeal, contemporary folk music has been evolving in a real positive direction thanks to many of today’s talented bands and artists. The Innocent Left reaches the zenith of this evolution with Gilmore and Roberts producing a modern masterpiece. It has a delicious mix of everything required to make it stand out from the rest and is one that you simply must own.  

You can (and you really should) buy your copy now from a number of websites. Just click on the links below:






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