Dusted Reviews

Incredible String Band - Incredible String Band

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Incredible String Band

Album: Incredible String Band

Label: Sepia Tone

Review date: Oct. 10, 2002

Superlative Folk from 1966

This debut album by the Incredible String Band, newly reissued by Sepia-Tone, opens on a slightly deceptive note, perhaps, with one of the more Gypsy-tinged songs, "Maybe Someday". Robin Williamson's violin plies a line between Romania and the hills of Tennessee. Most of the album, however, falls more directly into an Americana/folk tradition, at times reminding me of Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Simon & Garfunkel, and folk music, though also tinged with disparate influences from around the world.

Williamson's guitar is a particular treasure, blending classical and folk picking in beautiful ways on songs like "Dandelion Blues" and "Womankind", the latter especially wonderful. I could listen to it for days. Mike Heron's no slouch on guitar either, leading with simpler but no less effective work on "When the Music Starts to Play" and "The Tree", among others. The third member of the trio, Clive Palmer, doesn't appear as frequently, but when he does pop up, his guitar and, most notably, banjo work is quite a wonder. Just check out the traditional "Schaeffer's Jig" with Palmer's banjo and Williamson's fiddle battling it out.

Sometimes the vocals are little Dylanesque, such as Mike Heron's on "The Tree", which doesn't work quite as well. Somehow the nasal, slightly harsh voice detracts from the otherwise beautiful music, though it's by no means bad considered on its own.

"Dandelion Blues" is a standout - excellent guitar work, a catchy chorus and interesting lyrics. Williamson and Heron both participate, resulting in great interlocking guitar lines and nice vocal harmonies on the chorus.

A bit of an oddity here is "Empty Pocket Blues", a slow, desolate tune, the only one to feature Palmer on lead vocal. It opens with a lengthy whistle introduction by Williamson that's either cool or annoying; I'm not sure exactly which.

I must admit that occasionally they get a bit goofy for me in a silly comedy-folk way, but the only one that bothers me in particular is the album's closer, "Everything's Fine Right Now", complete with Palmer on kazoo and all. It finishes the album with a tossed-off feeling, which is a bit of a shame, but, then again, it's easy to skip if you so choose.

I'm not sure how many folks reading this will be interested in superlative folk from 1966, but that's their loss, because this debut deserves the esteem it has earned since its release, and it's fine indeed to see it receive a new reissue.

By Mason Jones

Read More

View all articles by Mason Jones

Find out more about Sepia Tone

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.