Not even the most ambitious or pretentious of prog rock artists have attempted a concept album about horses. Musician and multi-disciplinary artist Fruzsina Zsofia Rakoczy has. Cue the ‘flogging a dead horse’ quips…although there’s more than meets the eye to Frontrunner.
Release Date: available now
Label: Talking Cat Recordings
Format: DL / CD
The Anglo-Hungarian (born in Budapest, long time resident of Manchester) is an accomplished artist, singing and playing a variety of instruments. Bagpipes, hurdy gurdy, English concertina, saxophone, recorders and whistles, harpsichord and piano all present no problem. Drawing on a range of styles from British and European Traditional song, Early Music, Classic Rock, to Gothic and Steampunk, Rakoczy’s music has been described as having roots in artists such as The Dresden Dolls, Tom Waits, Marilyn Manson, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Joan Jett, László Félix, Mike McGoldrick, Blowzabella and The Peatbog Faeries.
A fascinating thought if you can possibly imagine the sound that emerges from such a recipe. With a love of European folklore, music and dancing, Rakoczy comes backed by ‘The Horror Show’ – a collection of her Manchester/Stockport/Pilgrim’s Way pals: bassist Heather Sirrell, Edwin Beasant on drums, Jon Loomes on guitar and hurdy-gurdy while Forbes Legat adds some synth and string atmospheres.
And having set the scene, the potential comes to immediate fruition with the psychedelic folk vision of Hooden Horse. The pagan and exotic soup is brilliant attention grabbing opening track.
The first of a couple of originals amongst the trad songs is Miss Portly. Not that you’d notice amidst the Olde London Towne barrel organ sounds and plink plonk of upright piano. Could easily be a cue for Oliver Twist’s Nancy to step up. However, it’s her treatments of the trad material where there’s a fresh and bright originality.
A degree of comfortable familiarity comes from covering of a Jethro Tull number(Heavy Horses…obviously) that’s given a vocal tour de force and Skewbald may be familiar to fans of modern electric folk brigands False Lights who in turn owed a debt (as we all do) to Martin Carthy. Minor quibble is that the ending fades rather too soon…
The Wanton Brown (Kate Rusby’s done this as The Blind Harper) gets a real Celtic coating of pipes and whistles; brilliantly uplifting stuff and one of the reasons I listen to folk music. The spirit of McGoldrick is strong. And talking of Kate, she’s also had a go at a version of Poor Old Horse where the tune is more familiar than the words she sang.
Creeping Jane is one that Martin Simpson plucked out for the Full English project. The Rakoczy version gets an acoustic jugband march as Taoist Tale by a certain Mr Zimmerman, (not that one but Tucker Zimmerman), via Nic Jones gets a bubbling electro folk treatment.
In true trad folk fashion, there’s a healthy respect for the songs, Little Dun Dee perhaps being the most rustic. By contrast Dead Horse (a shanty) gets a punky dash with a hint of rock and roll. It’s quite some journey from the swirl and skirl of Hooden Horse. Rakoczy transforms the folk canvas with bold and colourful strokes. A real gem of an album and a real discovery.
Listen to some Rakoczy here: