Rakes & Misfits finds Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne making the concertina sexy.
Release date: 5th March 2021
Label: Grimdon Records
Format: CD / DL
We find ourselves four years on from CBK’s debut album Outway Stranger. He must have surely been underage. If not, then of an age where the music he was creating defied his tender years. However, in the intrevening years he’s been constantly mentioned in dispatches with his skills on the concertina and most notably with his involvement with the excellent Granny’s Attic and their album Wheels Of The World (our review).
His new solo work is weighted towards traditional tunes and songs performed on an assortment of squeezeboxes ‘live in the studio’ with no overdubs. A refreshingly honest approach and how it should be done. Themed, sort of, to celebrate and decry the type of individuals to which the album title refers (in no way has he advocated any sort of skullduggery…) it’s a lively and fascinating set.
No frills, just a good set of songs sympathetically arranged and played with a strong sense of maintaining the tradition. Sounding very authentic and bright despite the subject matter of piracy and highway robbery opening the album. He talks of the satisfaction of “thumping out some simple jigs on the melodeon” in his delivery of Female Rake/The Drunken Drummer which is exactly as it sounds like he’s doing.
There’s a bold and confident delivery on the songs as the tunes bounce along. He avoids the yodelling chorus outlined in the Strawberry Lane variant of the Elfin Knight (via The Lover’s Tasks – and probably Bellowhead’s take on Rosemary Lane). The New Deserter and Broken Down Gentlemen might be familiar in other guises done by Faustus so there’s an element of familiarity inevitable in working up traditional songs. And then the delight (and expense) of playing the bass Anglo concertina showcased on The Dancing Tailor. It seems somewhat self-depreciating to call the performance as “parping accompaniment to silly songs” but shows that the emphasis is on the pleasure from paying rather than any alternative outcomes (spot the brief seasonal insertion).
Halfway in and CBK is warmed up enough to include a tune and song of his own. The Grumpy Old Man/Maart’s Fancy (not related) a result of the CBK ‘serial tune writer ‘confession. It begs the question that we need these tunes please! He does songwriting too, adapting some traditional song text and following the highwayman theme on Tom King. Countryman In Birmingham is partly built on a story that people from Birmingham were legally allowed to rob outsiders who visited the city – the less aid about the better – although a belting little song emerges. Those three CBK originals fit seamlessly. You can’t spot the join.
Arguably, the album should have finished with the gentle Worcester Farewell, although the music hall-ness of From Marble Arch To Leicester Square made famous by male impersonator Vesta Tilley fits as a splendid little encore piece. Whether it might ever involve donning the full regalia remains to be seen…
Ultimately, Rakes & Misfits offers plenty to get your teeth into, Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne has brought together a fine collection on a fascinating theme. Whether you opt for the romantic view of the outlaw and highwayman as a dashing figure or buy into the uncompromising blaggard and robber viewpoint, highwaymen are never less than boring. Add a CBK soundtrack that meets the challenge of tracking an album full of concertina/melodeon songs and tunes and you’re away.
Here’s the man himself working up a shanty, A Long Time ago: