John Cee Stannard & Blues Horizon -To The River | Album Review

John Cee Stannard & Blues Horizon –To The River

Cast Iron Recordings

12 songs time-54:33

This British band owes as much to skiffle music and the English Music Hall tradition as it does to the blues. The basic set up is two acoustic guitars, harmonica, stand up bass and drums with the occasional fiddle and piano. John Cee’s British sounding voice and delivery gives the music an air of light heartedness. The song structures aren’t blues. The only blues playing is the excellent harmonica skills of Howard Birchmore and a bit from the guitars. The brunt of Howard’s playing owes a debt to Sonny Terry and Phil Wiggins. There is an infusion of country-tinged music, gospel and novelty in various places. The basic vibe here harkens back to old time British novelty songs of a bygone era.

English music hall meets country blues on “Do It all over Again”, a tune that gives us our first introduction to the fab harmonica playing of Howard Birchmore and the lively lead acoustic guitar of Mike Baker. “Separation-2” is a music hall style rag that bemoans the travails of having too many girl friends. “History” owes a bit to classic country music weepers. The harmonica and guitar solos are first rate as usually the case on this CD. “You can have your fun, but don’t let your fun have you” is the sentiment on “Have Your Fun”. Herky-jerky Sonny Terry-Phil Wiggins style harp is given the spotlight here.

“Run To the River” is essentially the title track. It features the backing voice of Julia Titus along with the massive Farnham Voices Community Choir. It has a country-ish-gospel sound. Jelly Roll Morton’s “Winin’ Boy Blues” attains the requisite 1930’s feel. Julia and the choir pop up again on “The Good Lord Didn’t Tell Me”, a mournful lament on our mortality. The traditional classic “House Of The Rising Sun”, that has passed through the hands of Lead Belly, The Animals and others over the years, gets a boisterous revamp via high energy harmonica and guitar. It works.

John and Julia join their voices in the lilting melody of the melancholy “The Wretch”. Harmonica “train whistles” and shuffling snare drum appropriately usher in “Let The Train Whistle Blow” while Simon Mayer’s fiddle and the harmonica contribute to the chugging locomotive atmospherics. Jason Manners sits in on acoustic guitar while Matt Empson contributes piano to the lovely slow and moody “Ain’t No Livin’ With The Blues”. The jovial, feel good “Nothing Is What You Get” closes out the CD on a rousing note. Music hall fun. Fiddle, harmonica and piano blend well with John and Julia’s vocals. “If you don’t ask for nothing, nothing is what you get”.

The end result is a delightful cornucopia of English Music Hall, skiffle, blues, country, good time music and who knows what else. The lyrics on the ten John Cee Stannard originals are clever and oozing with warmth. It’s a bang up good time. If this recording doesn’t get you hopping about-seek help.

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