Chris Ricketts and Mark Willshire: Simple Folk

This is the first album released by Chris Ricketts and Mark Willshire from Portsmouth. Chris plays acoustic guitar and handles most of the vocals and Mark plays bass guitar. There are 14 tracks on the album and out of that 4 are original songs penned by Chris Ricketts. Therefore on this album they offer a mixture of traditional and contemporary material performed in a bluesy roots style, which may, or may not, suit every taste.

My first impression was that, these are 2 young performers that are bravely trying to push the barriers out. Perhaps trying to hard. I felt the arrangements were a little bit hollow and would have benefited with some backing vocals and some more instruments added to the arrangements. However, this is there debut album, and I am bloody sure the next will be much stronger, – because the raw talent is definitely there.   

This is the sort of band that could find themselves on the bill at Cambridge Folk Festival, perhaps on the same stage as the likes of Sea Sick Dave. That’s not to say the vocal talents of Ricketts is not good – it is.  It’s a personal taste, but I found the play list, halfway through the album, tends to sound a little bit the same and lacked entertainment value. But, and it’s a big but, – this is how they are, and its what they do. I am sure younger folkies will enjoy it. With just a little bit more imagination and flair this could have been a truly great album, instead of just good. They are selling themselves a little short on this one, because, on paper, the combination of acoustic guitar and bass should work well, I remember Hugh and Tony Roberts.        

Conclusion: To realise what this duo is all about, I quote from their website. “Chris Ricketts and Mark Willshire focus on bringing folk and traditional music into the modern world. Both being born and bred in Portsmouth, their music has strong links with the city’s naval history and they sing versions of many sea shanties (some well known, some less so) in their own unique style, presenting the traditional songs in a fresh new way.” They formed the duo to bring a new genre of folk music “kicking and screaming into the 21st century”. Does it work? – See for your self. If you want to see /hear the duo performing the opening track on the album ‘The Briery Bush’ – its on you tube here as recorded at Gosport and Fareham Easter Festival 2010.

You will find there website here.

Good stuff.

(Hobgoblin Records, 2010)

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