Pay Pack and Carry  – Bob Collum and the Welfare Mothers (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Much has been written of the music lore of the Mississippi Delta. Less so The Thames Delta, an equally mercurial and mythical place and one that seems to have a strange ability to draw itinerant musicians from all over the old world and the new to its colder, murky environs. Musicians such as Bob Collum, who hails from Tulsa but who has called the Essex hinterland home for many years now. It is to be expected I guess. Take a age old global port add the influx of cultural music that goes with such industry, not to mention a thriving folk circuit and a home grown pub scene which re-invented American rock and blues for the pre-punk UK market and the seeds for a sort of global Americana musical garden were not only sown but have been constantly well watered. 

Pay Pack and Carry is the sound of Americana washed up on such distant shores, deft enough that it still rings true with the sounds of the country of Bob Collums birth but also tempered by the sounds of the land that he now considers home. Alongside the expected country lines you find folk finesse and just enough rock muscle but there is something very infectiously pop woven into the DNA and it comes as no surprise that Bob sees bands such as The Beatles, The Byrds and the often overlooked Monkees as important influences. Indeed Michael Nesmith’s Different Drum is covered here.

Ranging from the groovesome country-pop of Hey Blue., which reminds me more than a little of …warning, obscure music reference alert…The Del Fuego’s and particularly the glorious Allen’s Mills, which is totally fine by me and Catherine Row wanders less obscure R.E.M. infused roads. Tin Can Telephone is a polished hoedown groover and Scarecrow is the sort of song that any dedicated folkie would sell their soul to write to ensure a break through to a bigger and more commercially minded audience.

The mechanical elements of music can obviously be taught but the songs that are created are always going to be in no small part a mirror image of the artists journey, both metaphorically and geographically. Pay Pack and Carry is the sound of an artist equally at home either side of the Atlantic and in numerous genres.

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