Review: The Albion Band, Queen’s Hall

The Albion Band
The Albion Band
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The nostalgia factor has been high in recent years, with everyone from The Stone Roses to Steps reforming, but there can’t be many bands which have done so without any of the original members.

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In fact, it’s probably more accurate to describe The Albion Band, revived after almost a decade in hiatus, as a reincarnation rather than a reformation.

Deciding against rejoining the outfit he founded and subsequently spent thirty years steering, folk legend Ashley Hutchings has instead passed the torch onto a new generation of musicians, including his son, Blair Dunlop.

Fluidity of line-up has always been a big part of the Albion Band’s history, with virtually everyone who’s anyone on the English folk scene having been a member at some point since 1971. Yet, while Dunlop and his bandmates are undoubtedly talented in their own right, without Hutchings anchoring it all, it’s a bit like Sean Lennon and Stella McCartney writing some tracks, throwing in a few of their fathers’ songs and calling themselves The Beatles.

Albion Band standards that get an airing at tonight’s gig, part of the Ceilidh Culture programme, include Time To Ring Some Changes, John Tam’s Ragged Heroes, and former guitarist Richard Thompson’s Roll Over Vaughan Williams and there are a few new arrangements of traditional folk tunes, like No, Sir, No too. It all feels a touch forced though, with part of the problem being that the majority of the six-piece’s “impromptu” banter in between tracks is clearly rehearsed, hindering any natural rapport they might have established with the audience otherwise.

A large chunk of the set consists of their own modern compositions, from both 2011 EP Fighting Room and new album The Vice Of The People. While they’re solid enough, tracks like Coalville and Thieves’ Song don’t truly compare to the band’s existing canon. The pick is definitely Babylon, amusingly described by vocalist and guitarist Gavin Davenport as “the world’s only Gulf War themed ghost-visitation lullaby.” Haunting and brooding, it’s terrifically atmospheric, but despite that highlight, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the class of 2012 are trading largely on the past glories of others.