Not to be put off by the galling inconvenience of a global pandemic, West Midlands sea shanty specialists the Smokin’ Pilchards have spent the past 12 months recording the follow up to 2018’s debut long player, Into The Brine.
Very much an album of two halves, the initial five tracks on Blame It On The Kraken were already in the can prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. The first lockdown may have put further planned recording sessions on hold, but it also allowed the band more time to write and adapt new songs to fit the current, uncertain climate.
Fronted by the swashbuckling Johnny C, co-starring Roberto Carlucci (lead guitar), Ryan Peters (bass) and Stourbridge ‘sax-beast’ Ted Cartwright, the enforced break also saw the band’s line-up evolve. The multi-talented artist/musician Tracy Hickinbottom stepped in on drums and cajón to replace Al Woodhouse and the Pilchards’ unique shanty-folk sound was further enhanced by the addition of Chrissie Velveteen’s strong, soulful backing vocals.
New song ideas were exchanged (via WhatsApp and messages in bottles) until the easing of restrictions in the autumn finally allowed the band to return to Severn Valley Studios to complete the project.
Personal favourites include Creepy Crawlies, which wonderfully showcases Roberto’s flawless nimble dexterity (see also Klaus), and opening track Boatman. Ted’s inventive sax playing certainly goes a long way towards defining the band’s sound but, like Roberto, he’s appreciative of when subtlety is required.
From the reflective allusions of Grandad Jack, to the tales of the high seas in Günther Krech, to the poignant beauty of Sailor’s Lament (perhaps Johnny C’s finest song to date) the standard of writing is superb.
It may have taken longer than hoped to complete, but it has proved to be well worth the wait. Fingers crossed we get the opportunity to see the Pilchards in their favoured festival setting sometime this summer…
By: Terence Stomp
Blame It On The Kraken is now available (CD or digitally) from https://thesmokinpilchards.bandcamp.com/