Reviews

A few people have been kind enough to write some words of wisdom about our new album, which we’ve found very flattering. Have a read.

Well, the other week, this slightly dodgy looking package thudded onto my doormat. Didn’t have any wires sticking out from it, and wasn’t making a ticking noise, so it was gingerly pried open to find Exhibit A staring me in the face – fortuitously, all sterile shrink-wrapped and thoughtfully sanitised for the prevailing times we exist in. ☣️ Exhibit A, for the sake of clarity, being the first physical 120mm diameter offering of digital clatter from two notably notorious reprobates going under the alias of Brown Boots – a name I always associate with Stanley Holloway, but I digress… 🧐

It had been one’s intention (as I do when ruminating over the merits of any new circular shiny plasticular artefact) to insert it into the vehicular audio device and blast it out on the way to and from morris practices. 🚗 However, confined to barracks (remind me – wot is ‘morris practice’? 🤔), I’ve been compelled to sit down and take my ease whilst my ears digest such things. Which feels slightly restrained (and odd), but hey ho, we are where we are… literally… 😛

Anyways, what’s on this thing, you may ask, dear reader? Well, it’s all a tad easy out of the starting gate, but it gets trotting along and into a gallop soon enough… a balanced mixture of some wondrously whimsical off-the-wall arrangements and some beautifully beefy choons – various traditional bangers from New England, old England and various other points of the compass – if it’s a good choon, it’s fair game. And there’s a pair of new(ish) noodlings from each boot respectively – that absolute stonker of an earworm, ‘Chutney’ (worth the cost of the whole thing alone in my opinion 😊), followed by ‘Take Three to Play’ which is growing on me – guess I’m obliged to actually sit down and bloomin’ learn it now. 😝

Mmmm. Yeah. S’alright, is this. Proper tasteful, like. 👌😎 In the spirit of the age (mine’s a large scotch if you’re buying 🥃) – to borrow the words of an old chum of mine describing his evening libation – a most excellent and flavoursome lockdown lightener. There ya go, then. Get yerselves over unto that there Bandcamp (linky-link below) and rehome one (or more) of these ‘ere things today. U know it makes sense. 🤘👍

Edward Johnson
April 2020

Times are hard, particularly for musicians, so I bought this CD partly to help our brothers and sisters in their struggle against international skintness, and partly because of some impressive trailers on social media. A very neat little package arrived by post, environmentally friendly to the extent of saving ink by only writing half my address – although there was no stinting on sellotape! The sleeve and artwork are pleasingly minimalist, with enough information and tasteful use of line drawings, and just the one photo of fiddler Martin Clarke and melodeonist Will Allen. Although this duo could be characterised as hardcore English musicians, the music on First Steps ranges well beyond the fens and downs typically associated with that tradition: Scotland and Ireland are represented in almost half this material, and there are forays to Denmark and North America too.

The thing about Brown Boots is, they’re infectious. Not in an N95 facemask way, but whatever your footwear you’ll find your toes are tapping to this music. You’ll want to join in, play along, dance, sing (resist that – First Steps is strictly instrumental!) from the driving notes of the Shetland reel Shaalds o’ Foula to the gentle stateliness of Sussex Cotillion and its earthier French companion Schottische à Virmoux. Every track was recorded in a single take – there may have been some out-takes! – which gives this album a live, spontaneous feel, full of energy and passion. Allen and Clarke seem truly passionate about all this music, whether it’s Jimmy Shand reels or James Hill hornpipes, Shropshire jigs or Restoration 3/2s. Box and fiddle provide duets and harmonies around each piece, with a low thumping left hand from Will to reinforce the beat and some soaring high notes from Martin. Barham Down is a nice example of their sparky take on English music, while La Contredanse shows off a more eclectic side of Brown Boots with some French Canadian reels. Take the plunge into this refreshing collection, get your feet wet! Oh wait …

Alex Monaghan, FolkWorld
April 2020

First Steps, by Brown Boots.

I had hoped to be able to type Brown Boots without adding ‘I ask you’ but it appears difficult; I will try to restrain myself.

First Steps is the first album of tunes by Brown Boots, a duo of melodeon and fiddle. Will Allen is the hirsute chap on melodeon; Martin Clarke is the fresh-faced fiddler. They both play for many Morris sides and are well known in English dance bands.

The album is a collection of twelve tune sets taken mainly from the English dance repertoire, with some interesting variations from other sources. It was recorded live at Grand Cru Studio by Myles Clarke, mastered by Sam Proctor, and runs to just over an hour. It is launched on 28th April 2020. The art work by Philippa Friswell and the sleeve notes hang together nicely with useful information about the tunes. I enjoyed the speculation about some sources; some of it may even be right!

The tunes range from early Playford (Black Nag) through to self-penned tunes (Chutney; Take Three to Play), taking in Scottish, Irish, American and French Canadian along the way. The playing is always energetic and this is what drives the duo along. You can tell they love dancing and playing for dance. Will Allen has a very firm bass hand, but he’s not restricted to pumping it out – he cleverly drops in and out with the bass lines, while his right hand is fast and accurate. Martin Clarke is a very inventive player who leaves the tune and then returns just when it needs it. The recording picks up some of the duo’s foot stomping which adds to the dance style. On a couple of the tracks they drift away from the tune and start getting a bit humorous.

This is one of those CDs that could be used for dancing to or as a ‘sit and listen’ at home, and is well worth a listen.

I’m not going to ask you again.

Gareth Kiddier
April 2020