When we first reviewed The Jamestown Brothers back in 2020 for their debut album Rebels, Rogues And Regrets and we reasonably expected that within a short time we would have the pleasure of seeing them live but it was not to be. Two years later and we are still eagerly awaiting seeing them live but with things returning to normal now I’m sure it won’t be long, especially as these folks love to play live and every weekend sees them flying around the south of England from pub to festival to ‘proper’ music venues. We just need them to stretch their wings a wee but further as we are getting old and lazy!
The Jamestown Brothers formed in Somerset in 2017 and gathered up some great reviews and a fair bit of fanfare before the dreaded pandemic but have bounced back since the pandemic’s end with a new EP of all original material and continue to tour, tour, tour, tour so I’m sure we’ll get to see them soon enough. An incredible eight piece band that includes guitars, trumpet, piano, bass, drums, fiddle, recorder and trombone they certainly can kick up a right old racket considering they are almost acoustic.
Just Is kicks off with ‘Big Parade’ and the song is big in every sense. A hand of friendship is offered after two years when the act could only be symbolic. Catchy and energetic and a choice chorus this is definitely one for the festival masses to get on board once they had a few liveners! Singer-songwriter Colin Batchelor leads the band with distinct and clear vocals in a song that is easy to follow and the brass instruments leading the way. ‘Jimmy James’ tells the story of the larger than life 18th century piper James Allen. Born sometime in the 1720’s in the wilds of Northumberland, Jimmy came from a family of border gypsies. An army deserter and adventurer, who travelled to far off foreign lands and an escapee from more than one prison whose one redeeming feature was his skill with the Northumbrian small pipes. Bellows-blown bagpipes as to mouth-blown Scottish bagpipes that have provided the North-East with a musical identity for centuries.
“folk punk was born to the land”
To fit the entirety of Jimmy’s life into a song is some achievement. Again the brass is put to extensive use and fits perfectly. Several listens and i’m still trying to pick out the individual instruments. ‘Billy Boys’ tells of the early 20th century razor gangs of Glasgow especially the fascist sympathisers of the protestant Billy Boys gang. Led by Billy Fullerton who would be awarded a medal for scabbing during the 1926 General Strike and formed a Glasgow branch of the British Union of Fascists. The gang are still remembered at Ibrox Park today with a song named after them in which the line “up to our knees in Fenian blood” led to it’s banning as it was undeniable that “fenian” in the context of the song meant Roman Catholics. Real history that leads me to think of the one band that The Jamestown Brothers can be compared to – The Men They Couldn’t Hang. They share not just a love of forgotten working class history but also a novel approach to Folk music that sees them trying many things that always come from. ‘Sunlight In The Morning’ sees the band tackling the subject of homelessness but as I’ve said in a real human way without cliche or lecture. Catchy, as are all the songs here, and well produced Country-Folk with more than a touch of Celtic about it it’s music for the outside and dancing around to (or tapping your thigh as I do). ‘This Is War’ about the life of ‘Jutland Jack’ John Travers Cornwell the youngest recipient of the Victoria cross following his brave action aboard HMS Chester in 1916 is full on Celtic-Folk-Punk historical stomp just as I like it. The curtain comes down on Just Is with the brilliant ‘Lower Us Down’ is a worthy addition to the coal-miner’s extensive musical canon. A life of unimaginable hardship and danger right up until the 2nd World War. These songs always remind me of me Dad but especially Ian Porter an old friend who was only 19 when he was killed down Rossington pit. Serious subject matter sure but sang with gusto and conviction.
Coming from an area of England with a rich working class tradition has not done The Jamestown Brothers no harm and I’m a fan of musicians who make political music without ramming it down the listeners throat or resorting to cliche. Story telling lyrics and a desire to re-tell stories of the past have made them festival favourites, especially in the South West of the country, and the other bits will follow I am sure.
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