Bird In The Belly – Neighbours And Sisters: Album Review

Release Date: 18th October 2019

Label: GF*M Records/Bird in the Belly

Formats: CD, DL

The Brighton folksters delight in delving deep into the folk tradition. Going places where few rarely go, Neighbours And Sisters is a suitably engaging follow up to the 2018 Sunday Express Album Of The Year, The Crowing.

A rustic and organic set of ten songs defies the stereotypical view of folk music as full of tragic tales of seafaring types garnished in jogs and reels from feisty fiddles and banjos. The Bird In The Belly takes focusses strictly on the darker and more ominous side of folk. Raw and unfiltered is the order of the day.

Aside from two original songs, the album is based around the Roud Folk Song Index and the Bodleian Broadside Ballad Archive. The aura of a murky Victorian and Georgian underworld casts us into a world of unease with underlying hints of trepidation.  Betrayal and condemnation; prostitutes, prisoners, paupers and power – they all cross paths over a winding soundtrack of violin, banjo, electric guitar and organ.

However, it’s the droning intro to Robin And Starling that sets a  tone where jolly jigs and reels are scarce and any energy is directed into swirling instrumental passages with an emphasis on stark and haunting atmospheres. Fiddles deliver mournful airs and there’s a tired resignation and weariness that seeps through the songs.

All sorts of stories unfold and intrigue. New Gate Stone tells of prisoners who marked their names of the walls before being hanged, including notorious highwayman Claud Duval along with the injustices and corruption of the workhouse. It’s Ben Webb who has the last say though with his 45 George Street that skillfully uses quotes from the letters of John Smith before his execution at Newgate in 1835. And it’s a tale that’s as unnerving as it is to the bone.

If you’re looking for hard-hitting folk music that’s uncompromising and chilling and occasionally uncomfortable, then look no further. Neighbours And Sisters pulls no punches.

Watch the video for New Gate Stone here:

Bird In The Belly online:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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