Proper scrumpy punkers from old Bristol town. Cult legends in the South West. Fusing The Ramones and The Wurzels in an orgy of fast riffs, cider and marrow dancing!
Now The Surfin’ Turnips been around for a few years now since 1991 (ish!) and though I have heard great things about them our paths have never crossed. They have played a few times in London over the years but things just haven’t connected right for us. So here we are with The Surfin’ Turnips new album Awake The West which was released back in January this year but actually recorded back in the Summer of 2014. The various band members hail from Cornwall, Devon and Somerset but have strong associations with the town of Chipping Sodbury where they met while working, and the areas around Bristol where they currently live. Now one of the long lost and lamented celtic-punk bands of recent years has been The Dreadnoughts from Canada. For a few years their star shone bright as they toured relentlessly from one end of Europe to the other seemingly all year round. Well they may have hung up their fiddle but they did briefly reform for a few gigs back in 2014 and they played a solitary gig in England with The Surfin’ Turnips in Bristol. While over they also played on this recording so if you a Dreadnoughts fanatic, like most of us, then this is for you.
The album begins with ‘Turmut Hoer’ and its straight forward, heads down, classic punk rock with clear vocals and lyrics sung in a broad Bristol dialect and a vocabulary that leaves me baffled most of the time. When I looked up what a Turmut Hoer is it just came up as the name of pub after pub after pub all over the west country!
“I am a turmut hoer, from Wiltshire I were born. Me parents they be workin’ folk. The fly be on me turmut”
So lyrically I am but lost except I do know that its all a loving tribute to the boys home. ‘The Quaker’ carries on the punk rock and sails into ‘Evenin’ in the Village’ a spoken word tribute to The Surfin’Turnips favourite beverage Cider which is followed appropriately enough by ‘Oh Apple Tree’. Featuring the first appearance here of the accordion
“Pass round the jug and take a supp, Cutler’s name drifts into the night.
Nought could compare with this pasty we share – the souls of the West join the light”
A cover of the sea shanty ‘Eddystone Light’ is up next. Made famous by Scots folk band The Weavers the song is about the lighthouse in Eddystone which kept ships from washing up and wrecking on the dangerous Eddystone Rocks, nine miles south of Rame Head.
While Rame Head is in Cornwall, the actually rocks are in Devon and the song tells of the lighthouse keepers son who meets his mammy, a mermaid.
“From this union there came three, A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me”
‘Ciderman Killed The Radio Star’ is another cider fixated song and it aint the last either!
They keep it local next up with a grand wee folky accordion led track ‘Sampford Peverell Pig Farmers Polka’. Thrashy guitars and that accordion keep the music up tempo and if nothing else this album is rollicking good romp and completely different from the celtic kind of folk punk I am more use to. Another spoken word piece follows and comes with a small dialect guide of west country words to help you through it.
“Gert = Big. Body = person. Axed = Asked. Batch – an areal of rough land. Ee = you. Queer – unexplainable. Shepton Mallet Races – Mid Somerset cider making town. Vleshy = fat. Vlat Voot – flat foot. Ar – Yes”
‘A Cottage On Dartmoor’ keeps the folk punk flag flying and finally Awake The West comes to an end with the traditional song ‘Spanish Ladies’ and for me is the true highlight of the album. Fast tuneful accordion punk rock with a real buzz to it except it doesn’t end there though as there is a secret track at the end that I won’t say anything about ‘cept to say it’s fecking brilliant!
The home of The Surfin’ Turnips the West Country has a proud, diverse and rich cultural, musical and literary heritage. In this time of globalisation and the creeping influence of London across England just as it is important for the celtic languages to survive we must not forget that tradition and language is not just confined to only the celtic countries. Places like the West Country and the northern counties and anywhere who had them also need to preserve their old ways. After all as a wise man once said
“If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong”
or something like that. West Country renaissance folk-punk aiming, and succeeding, in spreading the word of the West to those in need of apple salvation.
Ar, awake the West!
(you can have a sneaky listen to ‘Awake The West’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below then afterwards for just a measly fiver you can own it by following the link!)
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Tagged: Dreadnoughts, Surfin'Turnips