Dom Prag – Needle & Thread: Album Review

Dom Prag takes his trademark classical sound into the folk realm with an intense set.

Release Date:  25th February 2022

Label: Self Release

Formats: CD / Digital

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, as Dom Prag knows.

Brought up with the ‘traditions’ of the classical guitar, he’s never been tempted to the dark side and to swap his nylon strings for steel. I recall a Cambridge Folk Festival Q&A with Martin Carthy a few years back, when one fan came up with what he thought was probably quite a clever question in the hope that Martin would denounce one or the other when he simply asked the maestro “acoustic or electric?” Martin’s answer was the clever one – a simple “why not both?

And that could apply to Dom one day; when his Judas moment arrives and he abandons the sound philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broken why fix it?’ It’s actually what gives Dom his distinctive style. In the meantime, his life living on a narrowboat (sounds idyllic but probably has its trials) for the last couple of years plus the now-familiar lockdown impact, results in Needle & Thread. Traditional also plays a part in the material with seven traditional songs plus three original songs that vary from solo singer-songwriter mode to welcoming some ‘name’ guests in the likes of Phil Beer, Rosie Hodgson and Rowan Pigott.

In fact, pulling no punches, it’s the original songs that are the highlight of the album. Moving from the haunting title track to the more restrained anthem Come All You Fine Young People, the latter sounds like the sort of inspiration rabble-rouser Martyn Joseph would come up with. However, it’s a more reflective and peaceful piece; “the things you take for granted now, might not be here tomorrow.” he sings as well as expressing thoughts of keeping the flames from going out. There’s also The Shoemender that contemplates the demise of the High Street and the emergence of the contrasting empty units and the garish colours of new pop-up businesses. It’s accompanied by a mournful and melancholic deep cello line from Joely Koos and an “It’s going, it’s going, it’s gone” lyric.

Elsewhere, the traditional songs may seem familiar with some solid selections. You may nod sagely at the sight of Van Diemen’s Land and The Brisk Lad, the latter given a rustic accompaniment apt to tell the grim tale while he ticks the ‘singing unaccompanied’ box on Foster’s Mill. Oakey Strike Evictions might be less so, re-imagined as “a 19th Century English folk equivalent of a rap battle.” Try that one Dizzee Rascal. It’s given a real Levellers style full band folk romp and roll and picks up from the general jollity of its partner strike song, South Medomsley Strike, both Tommy Armstrong songs treated with due respect.

Needle & Thread is a thoughtful collection given a coating of both stripped back and lifting musical arrangements. The guests enhance Dom’s visions, not detracting from the fact it’s his name on the cover and allowing him a chance for his moment in the spotlight.

Watch the official video for The Shoemender from the album here:

Dom Prag:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Soundcloud

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