Exposé Online banner

Offa Rex — The Queen of Hearts
(Nonesuch 558638-2, 2017, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-12-05

The Queen of Hearts Cover art

It was sometime back in the mid 70s that I discovered English folk rock, though the specifics are lost to the mists of time. It was likely a Steeleye Span album that did it, and I’m pretty sure Rocket Cottage was my first. Before long I encountered the marvel that is Fairport Convention’s Liege and Lief, and in the years since I’ve investigated not only the rest of the catalogs of those two bands, but the similar and related bands that also did great work blending the rich folk traditions of the British Isles with rock instruments and energy: Horslips, Pentangle, Fotheringay, Mellow Candle, Trees, Five Hand Reel, Lindisfarne, Mr Fox, and many more. Now comes Offa Rex, which features English singer Olivia Chaney and what is basically the American band The Decemberists. The connection with the roots I’ve mentioned is clear — they take on several traditional tunes that Steeleye Span (or Maddy Prior outside Steeleye) played, like “Sheepcrook and Black Dog,” “Blackleg Miner,” and “Flash Company.” And they acknowledge more modern sources by covering Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” reminding us that it was a folk-oriented song before Roberta Flack made it famous. Over the course of the album (and called out by name in the liner notes) are the great ladies of English folk singing: Maddy Prior, June Tabor, Anne Briggs, Lal Waterson, and Sandy Denny. Also name-checked are Ashley Hutchings, Martin Carthy, and Tim Hart. So these people obviously know exactly what they’re doing, and where it fits in history. Given the indie-cred (such as it is) that Colin Meloy and The Decemberists command, perhaps this shining of light on great music of the past will open a few eyes in younger generations. Be that as it may, this stellar band has come up with arrangements that can stand proudly with the work of their inspirations. It’s a kind of All around My Hat for the millennial generation, and is overflowing with musical ideas that both pay homage and expand on the accomplishments of their forebears. The title track leads off the set, starting with Chaney playing electric harpsichord, soon joined by bass, drums, and guitar with wah-wah. And then her lovely voice comes in, and if your heart isn’t melted yet, I question your humanity. (Just kidding — I think — but it is seriously beautiful.) Meloy takes lead vocals on some of the tracks, and the rest of the band is stellar. Chris Funk (guitar), Nate Query (bass), John Moen (drums), and Jenny Conlee (keyboards) are all flexible and provide other instruments beyond their primaries, and guests contribute bass clarinet, cello, viola, and percussion. I’m just stunned and pleased that such wonderful can be released in 2017. Maybe there’s hope for the human race after all.


Filed under: New releases, 2017 releases

Related artist(s): The Decemberists, Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention, June Tabor, Steeleye Span, Offa Rex

More info
http://smarturl.it/TheQueenOfHearts.All

Latest news

2019-01-31
Keyboardist Ingo Bischof R.I.P. – Keyboard player Ingo Bischof, best known as the longtime keyboard player of German band Kraan, passed away on January 29th, 2019. Bischof was born January 2, 1951 in Berlin-Kreuzberg and joined Kraan in 1975. » Read more

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more

2019-01-02
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more

2018-12-23
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Sensitiva Immagine - E Tutto Comincio Cosi... – Here is one that Edison Records (RIP) of Japan spared no laudatory word on when it was first reissued by them back in the early 90s. Marquee's encyclopedia claims its origins as a cassette release...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues