Luke Daniels & The Cobhers – s/t: Album Review

Luke Daniels and The Cobhers, staying alive and getting groovy with a folk/disco thang.

Release Date: 28th October 2022

Label: Gael Productions

Format: digital / CD

Some may recall The Band Of Love doing a folk meets disco crossover some time back, even getting to play on the huge stage at Hyde Park. Didn’t seem to quite catch on as the ‘on trend’ musical future, yet the strangest of combinations now makes a daring reappearance.

An album teased when we last saw Luke play at The Met in May, his link-up with The Cobhers (think ‘covers’) aims to swell the ranks of fans of traditional music by drawing in those whose tastes may lie on the dance floors of the Seventies. The combination of traditional folk and dance floor fillers (played with traditional folk instruments) isn’t quite as bizarre as it sounds. There could well be more obscure versions of Stayin’ Alive be it played on guitar, fiddle and melodeon or via something like Inuit throat singing or extreme Death Metal (answers on a postcard…) while the band’s Groove Is In The Heart could easily slip into one of those tunes sets where the festivals tents are full of late-night bouncing energy.

In fact, it’s the urge to get up and dance that perhaps unites the two musical forms. Perhaps festival tents are the new dance floors? Perhaps the simple thought that folkifying these classics is the gateway into expanding the folk audience and to that extent. it’s mission accomplished. Superstition can’t help but retain the Stevie Wonder funk while wandering off into a folky diversion and AWB’s Pick Up The Pieces finds Michael Biggins finding a niche with the piano part. Add a touch of Matt Tighe’s fiddle, dueling away with the Daniels’ melodeon and the white flares are;t quite so out of place.

And having established that connection, we can delve into some of the more traditional fayre on offer from this combination. Inspired by ‘the pandemic’, lockdown trends or the exploration of traditional tunes from North Lanarkshire that vary between the pleasantly relaxing and the eminently danceable – now that train of thought has become ingrained by The Cobhers philosophy.

Cucumber Jungle finds the ensemble pulling, nay heaving joyfully in the same direction with the fiddles a-flying. One, that amongst the Julian Sutton tunes, references Damien O’Kane and David Kosky’s Mystery Inch. The said ‘Inch’ “remains a mystery to us,” they admit, yet nothing to do with the hole in the jeans that extra tall guitarist Stevie Byrnes uses to get a bit of extra length in the leg. The clues are on the album cover and having camped next to David Kosky at Underneath The Stars Festival, ‘ve been privy to the genuine story from the horse’s mouth… Moving swiftly on,

The Luke Daniels songwriting prowess is showcased on Some Will Fall. Oft overlooked in the presence of his melodeon skill, he portrays the global uncertainty of recent times with a melancholy that balances out a lovely melody and subtlety of arrangement. Arguably one of the best songs he’s written and which segues seamlessly into the tune relating to the witch legend of Maggie Ramsay.

The thought that maybe the trad tunes should do the honourable thing and get a disco wash results in a realisation that they’re already danceable enough as they are. Proof in the Carron Bridge tune set that’s as funky as folk might get with the guitar lines as it develops into a more traditional jigging and reeling fayre. And after all how far is a waltz from or a slip jig in a 9/8 tempo (bringing to mind the likes of Genesis’ Apocalypse In 9/8) a disco groove? Maybe just a little more complex in coordinating your moves, but all lying on the same dance spectrum.

Some may bulk, dry retch even, at the thought of mainstream and traditional music crossing paths but for that reason, I quite like the perverseness of The Cobhers cleverly sneaking in a couple of ‘are they really playing…?’ tunes into the tradition.

Luke Daniels online: Website Facebook / Twitter / Instagram 

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