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Band

John Fairhurst first came to the attention of the world with the release of Joys of Spring, an intriguing blend of Eastern and Western music which more than amply showcased his deep understanding of both traditions admirably.

As should be evident from the title, Band is not a solo journey. After forming a backing band consisting of Ellis Davies, Alabaster de Plume, Dave Badlace and Rik Warren, John embarked on the unenviable task of attempting to better his instrumental debut, released on Manchester label Humble Soul in 2007. The result is a bit of a mixed bag, but one that is certainly heartfelt and accomplished.

Intro track 'Daylight' builds on the rawer elements of Joys of Spring, baring comparison to the after-hours drawl of 'Obnox Stomp', but perhaps with a little less stomp. A suitably mellow rendition of Mississippi John Hurt's 'Pay Day' follows, telling the story of a lover's feud and resulting separation with slow burning intensity. Sections that feature all five members singing in unison give this track more than a little gospel soul, with John's rasping, gravelly vocal tones taking the lead. This one has been a live favourite since its first performance, but it is pleasing to hear it done justice on tape.

'Lost My Mind' is another rowdy bar-room romp, with sliding blues guitar licks and an infectious refrain. This one drags a little due to a lack of chord changes or variation, but would definitely bring the house down in a live situation. Elsewhere, we have the high speed, nitro-injected blues of 'Big Dig', taking the recording into trashier, rockier territory, before we descend to the chirpy 'Earworm', which once again shows the virtuosity of Fairhurst's composition and guitar work. The track dies down halfway through, coming back with force with a sitar (or very sitar-like equivalent) tracing the melody ahead of a final repetition of the theme. The album closes with campfire balladry in the form of 'Goodbye', a solo acoustic track that sounds like a reworked Joys of Spring song.

If you take away the two interlude tracks ('Rant' and 'Wire Donkey'), that only leaves six tracks totalling 30 minutes, which in my opinion is more of a long EP than an album. This aside, my only criticisms of this recording stem from it being John's first vocal outing. He has been known to thrash it out at gigs, but until now he has kept quiet on record. He does a more-than-decent job of sounding like he smokes 40 a day (maybe he does), but my feeling is that there is still room for him to personalise his vocal delivery in much the same way as he has mastered the blues guitar form.

by Now Then Sheffield