Edward II – Dancing Tunes: Album Review

The Field Songs of Jamaica brought to vibrant life by Edward II.

Release Date:  12th March 2021

Label: Cadiz Music

Formats: CD / Digital

What a great idea! Edward II – that English roots band that uniquely blends the rhythms of the Caribbean with the traditional music of the British Isles – have just compiled a great album by taking a selection of songs collected from the fields of Jamaica at the start of the last century and repackaging them in the irresistible Edward II way.

The songs chosen for this album were collected by English landowner Walter Jekyll, together with Louise Bennett-Coverley, the renowned poet, singer and folklorist who was an avid campaigner for the preservation of Jamaican Patois. The songs that the pair collected were all written in English and Patois and told the stories of the hard life faced by the Jamaican agricultural communities of the day, often with a thick layer of irreverence and humour. The tunes were, of course, compulsive foot-tappers, in the unique way of the music of Jamaica. On Dancing Tunes, Edward II have cast their own unique imprint, firstly by applying their signature, upbeat rocksteady rhythms and secondly by integrating the tunes of rural England into the mix. And the result, as always, is thoroughly enjoyable, invigorating and refreshing.

Producer and Mixing Engineer Paul “Lush” Morris has done an excellent job in integrating the studio effects with the band’s live sound to bring these songs to vibrant life. The band – Glenford Latouche (vocals), Tee Carthy (bass and vocals), John Hart (guitars and trombone), Simon Care (melodeons), Jon Moore (guitars), David Henry (drums), Elston McKenzie (guitars and vocals) and Gavin Sharp (sax, windsynth and keyboards) are supplemented by guests Bella Hardy (vocals), Mike Partridge (drums) and Lucadread De Muzio (keyboards) and producer/engineer Lush also chips in with extra guitars, keyboards and drum programs. The sound is as rich and varied as that eclectic line-up suggests!

You’ll probably be familiar a good number of the songs here; indeed, there can’t be anyone on Earth who hasn’t heard a version of album opener Banana Boat Song, nor can there be many people around who couldn’t sing the opening verse of Yellow Bird if pressed, but the treatment doled out by Edward II breathes oodles of new life and vibrancy into the most familiar of these tunes. The pulsing rocksteady beat gets everywhere and the flavour is lively and joyous throughout. Drums, bass, studio rhythms, horn effects bring the sunny Caribbean right into your living room and every song – the familiar bananas and birds and Island in the Sun, together with the possibly less familiar Linstead Market, Dry Weather Houses, Donkey Want Water and River Bank Coverly – flies by in a haze of glorious warmth, light and love. This really is great fun!

The album ends with alternative mixes of Banana Boat Song and Linstead Market which allow the band and their producer to stretch out into dub reggae territory and again, it’s all fantastic fun.

Dancing Tunes is a brilliant album, guaranteed to blow away the COVID cobwebs and to bring that long-awaited summer of freedom several steps closer. Listen to it, buy it and cherish it! And don’t forget that – God and the vaccination programme willing – Edward II will be rocking the field at Cropredy on Thursday 12th August this year. I, for one, can’t wait to feel the Oxfordshire earth pulsing beneath my feet to these rhythms!

Watch the Official Video to the We Dance mix of Linstead Market – a track from the album – to savour that Edward II fusion of England and The Caribbean, below. The album can be purchased from Band On The Wall, here.

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