Will Pound – the man I once called “the Eddie Van Halen of the harmonica” which both he and I quite liked – has a new album that takes a trip around the music of a continent.
Release Date: 8th May 2020
Label: Lulubug Records
Formats: CD / DL
Will Pound seems pretty adept at picking these sorts of themes having gone Through The Seasons back in 2018. This time, funding has approved a musical journey across the European Union. 27 tunes for the 27 member states, all paired up bar Ireland who get an exclusive tune without being partnered to another nation.
It’s been a journey of discovery as much for Will as for us, as he discovers treasures from countries previously unmined. He may have been daunted by the challenge but he rises to the occasion and delivers an album full of gusto and punch.
Although he does partake in a couple of solo outings where the harmonica is juggled with the melodeon (not literally I guess), the core band comprises names well known in the folk genre. Jenn Butterworth, Patsy Reid, John Parker and Jude Rees all make a significant contribution
They combine to kick up a storm on the opening volley from Latvia / Belgium (I’m not going to even attempt some of the tune names). The first section just missing the brass kick to evoke a Bellowhead style arrangement, the latter part owing a debt to Trio Dhoore who some may be familiar with after taking part in the Flanders showcase at the English Folk Expo in 2016.
The Ireland tune set sees Will and Jenn joined by American/Irish fiddle Liz Carroll on a pant-swinging, knee-tapping, fist-pumping collection of jigs and reels. Jenn’s trademark guitar rhythms underpinning the Pound/Carroll gymnastics. It’s a potent introduction to the concept and we’re hooked in for the duration.
If anyone is disciplined enough to avoid the tracklisting, you can have a great game of ‘match the tune to the nation’. It wouldn’t be easy though although there are no off-kilter pairing – Sweden / Malta for example. And, as Will is at pains to point out, avoiding stereotypical and obvious musical connections means that there are some surprising little gems.
Will gets a chance to cut loose and cut a rug, living up to his billing with the solo harmonica on Slovakia / Slovenia and there are all sorts of what you might call Easter Eggs to spot. A couple of tunes associated with children serve as an inspiration and I thought I heard a brief hint of The Last Of The Summer Wine during the Portugal / Lithuania outing.
The poem / rap / rant This List appears on the Czech Republic / Luxembourg interlude, from Polish Slam poet Bohdan Piasecki – one of a couple of appearances. And yes, you may have to rewind to confirm that he really does namecheck Sports Direct, Greggs and Boots. Perhaps not surprising considering the piece was inspired by EU nationals who’ve made England their home.
Amongst the stars, there’s a bonafide superstar appearance as Will duets with the redoubtable Evelyn Glennie on Romania/Bulgaria. She provides a wild and wonderful rainbow of percussion and spotting some sort of time signature may be a challenge to those of us lesser mortals.
Bravo Will and friends for taking us on a musical jamboree, a romp through that thing known as Europe and all without a sign of the ‘B’ word.
Get a flavour of the album here: