Fellside Recordings ★★★★★
Glorious, fresh, crafted and beautifull. Joe Topping is a new name to me, a real find who has delivered an exciting album with his new band The Vagrant Kings.
It sits on a folk core, but there’s so much more to it than just one genre. Country, folk, gospel, blues and Americana all add up to what will surely be one of the very best roots releases of the coming new year. (Jan 12th release.)
Joe’s is a relaxed, natural, gentle and controlled vocal skill, and his writing accomplished and credible. He plays guitars, banjo and harmonica here, along with stunning lead vocals.
His band are pretty damn fine players too. Scott Poley’s pedal steel is as good as anything coming out of Nashville. Such sweet licks wrapped around the vocals. Steve Parry provides Hammond, Wurlitzer, piano, drums, brass and wind instruments (and horn arrangements), guitars, bass and backing vocals. He recorded the album at his studio too.
Jack McCarthy percussion and backing vocal.The understated string parts provided by The Leos Quartet on track two; Cat On A Cold Slate Roof, a song dedicated to Joe’s wife. Terry Coyne adds flute to The Ballad Of William Burke, and Andy Connally Irish flute on the opener, No Matter Where I Ramble. Quite an ensemble assembled here.
NineTopping originals and the closer Sweet Sixteen, a trad’ tune. Parry’s production solid and unfussy. Sizzling passion and honesty at the heart of this whole thing from Joe. Plus world class instrumentation that the likes of Jerry Douglas, Paul Franklin and Ry Cooder would be very happy with. Brilliant intricate bottle neck slide guitar work across this record.
But that wonderful vocal is King, especially on the emotionally-charged closer Sweet Sixteen. Note: When it comes to lyric writing; it is the very first time I have heard the word “Acquiesce,” in a song (second one in.) It works too! Simon Redley