Faustus – Broken Down Gentlemen (2013)
Pretty much everything is “wrong” with this album; look at the cover, find a picture of the band. Now, what do you imagine? Indie-rock? Pop-punk? English folk ballads?
Well, actually it’s the last one; and it’s fantastic!
Faustus are a three piece English folk band, consisting of Benji Kirkpatrick (guitar, bazouki) and Paul Sartin (fiddle), most famously of another contemporary English folk band, Bellowhead, and Saul Rose (melodeon), of Whapweasel and Kings of Calicutt.
To my ear, there seems to be two types of “folk” music; the first seems to be applied to anybody who picks up an acoustic guitar, whereas the second is applied to those who continue musical tradition, using traditional instruments. Not that I have a problem with either and, in fact, genre-ology and the difficulties in defining genres is one of my favourite talking points. However, I point out here that Faustus fall into the latter camp.
There is a definite stripped-down sound to Faustus, compared with the more rock-influenced and bigger and raucous arrangements of Bellowhead, for example. The lack of drums in Faustus gives a more homely, more traditional feel. But that isn’t to say that Faustus are lacking anything. They certainly aren’t.
There is a varied texture of tracks on Broken Down Gentlemen as Faustus put their spin on traditional folk tracks, from the mournful Captain’s Apprentice, the cautious American Stranger, the shanty-esque Og’s Eye Man, and the combative (and frankly fantastic) Banks of the Nile. Vocal harmonies abound along with driving guitar, fiddle and bazouki, along with the never relenting melodeon, underpinning all that is good.
Yes, pretty much everything is “wrong” with this album, and that’s exactly what is right with it. The raison d’etre of the band is to “banish all that is anodyne and fey in the delivery of folk music”, and that they do; folk doesn’t have to be bearded middle-aged men from the 1970s.
Broken Down Gentlemen is a great and varied album, beautiful and bawdy, and well worth a listen.
Favourite tracks: Banks of the Nile, Og’s Eye Man, Thrashing Machine
Spotify link: Faustus – Broken Down Gentlemen