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The Strawbs

The Ferryman's Curse

Review by Gary Hill

This band is certainly one of the founding pieces of the whole folk prog movement. This brand new album finds that they have lost nothing over the years. They have also managed revitalize their sound a bit, while remaining true to the things that have gotten them fans over the years. This is a great album sure to please those fans and perhaps gain them some new ones.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
In the Beginning
This powerhouse prog rock instrumental starts with just keyboards. That makes up the bulk of its roughly two minute length, but they bring it into some hard rocking stuff as the full band is heard later.
The Nails from the Hands of Christ
This comes out of the previous piece, working out eventually to a more dropped back motif for the vocals. This is a great blending of a more modern sound with the classic folk prog we expect from this act. I dig the tasty guitar soloing later in this cut. After the three and a half minute mark the keyboards lead us into a short, but powerful instrumental break. They bring it back to the song proper from there. This is a strong cut for certain.
The Song of Infinite Sadness

A gentle balladic piece, this is quite pretty. It doesn't evolve a lot, but when it's this good, who cares?

The Familiarity of Old Lovers
This is one of my favorites here. It has a great contrast between more rocking and mellower segments. It's one of the most dynamic pieces, too. It's another that does a great job of merging the old-school Strawbs folk prog with more modern stuff. This is really quite a powerhouse piece. The more powered up section mid-track is just so cool. So is the instrumental section that takes beyond that.
When the Spirit Moves
Another strong folk prog piece, this is closer to the older Strawbs sound. There is some intricate stuff later that I like a lot. It gets into some seriously involved and powerful jamming later in the track.
The Ten Commandments
Much more of a straight rock and roll sound begins this. This is perhaps less proggy than a lot of the rest. It's more just mainstream rock music with a 1960s to 1970s sound. I'm reminded of something Eric Clapton might do, really. It's a strong tune, though.
The Reckoning
This cut is much mellower and quite pretty. It's an intricate number. It's less than two minutes in length and purely instrumental.
The Ferryman's Curse
Intricate acoustic guitar leads the title track into being. The cut is a great example of Strawbs bringing their classic sound up to date. It's a dynamic and powerful folk prog piece. At nearly nine minutes of music, this is the epic of the piece. It has some powerhouse soaring prog rock built into it, too.
Bats & Swallows
This is the kind of stuff that Strawbs have always done, folk music turned toward progressive rock. It is solid and classy, but not a highlight. I do love some of the guitar soloing on this thing.
We Have the Power
The closer is another that's just sort of middle of the road for the album. Personally, I think that the title track should have been the final song. It would have made for a stronger ending. All that said, this is still effective.
 
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