Far back in the mists of time (well, about 4 years or so ago), two men took to a stage armed with a guitar, a drum, a washboard, two voices and some choice songs. The 13 Women, for it was them, seemed to slip under the radar despite some glowing reviews.
Four years on, Bob Hughes and Danny Foy have replaced the washboard with a fiddle player, a harmonica, a double bass, a full drum kit and a brand spanking new album. With some epic live gigs under their collective belt and a growing fan base, the album was eagerly awaited. I hate eagerly-awaited albums. Unless it’s a blinder then it can only be a disappointment. Thankfully it is a blinder.
‘YTS’ (no idea – Youth Training Scheme?) opens with a lone fiddle, joined by some out
of tune guitar and then an Ennio Morricone harmonica takes us into spaghetti western territory. Every album should start like this. It draws you in perfectly.
‘Feed The Wolf’ pumps its way towards old favourite ‘WWW’, a gorgeous waltz masking lyrics that tell of the pitfalls of social media. Pete Howe’s fiddle is achingly beautiful.
‘Inward Bound’ is a dem bones hoe down. If your foot isn’t tapping by now you’ve probably shuffled off this mortal coil. ‘Arse Of Barnsley’ (has there ever been a better song title?) chugs. There’s no other word for it. It’s like a relentless steam train.
It’s at this point that you realise The 13 Women make music that sounds like it came from the Deep South but is firmly planted in 21st Century Yorkshire.
‘Elaine’ is a love song to a lost love called Michelle. Brilliant. The song belongs to Mick Holmes mourning harmonica. We’re back upbeat again with ‘H & H’ (Hungry & Homeless – I worked that one out). It’s ‘Cotton Fields’ rewritten. Not the woeful Beach Boys version, but somewhere between Leadbelly’s original and The Pogues 1989 take.
‘On The Farm’ is probably the weakest song on the album. It’s not a bad track, but it just seems a bit lost surrounded by everything else happening here. Still, how many 12 track albums come without filler? Maybe with the “I’ve got a deep sea diver’s point of view” lyric, that’s the point. And to prove a point, ‘Time Traveller’ is for me the strongest song. It pumps along, interspersed with the most gorgeous hook.
Nine tracks in and we think we have the measure of The 13 Women, so they throw ‘Jawbone’ our way. It’s like nothing else on here. Christ, it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before, yet it fits and is unmistakably 13 Women. It’s unique, which is no mean musical feat these days. It’s a beautiful earworm. ‘Bad Temper’ and ‘DeadlyCobra’ have a job on to follow that and close the album, but they do it nicely. ‘Bad Temper’ throws the album title into the lyric, sounding both pretty and ugly at the same time. ‘DeadlyCobra’ takes us back half an hour into The 13 Women’s spaghetti western world, a superb and fitting ending. An eagerly-awaited album that does what we want and more. It’s a magnificent effort. Their only real issue now is how to follow it.
This review has been written by Simon Saynor radio host and proprietor of Notorious Aadvark Record Store in the Waterdale shopping centre. He’s a #DonnyLegend.