It is with a sense of sadness that I sit down to write about this latest Barnstormer album, having learned of the passing a few days ago of Dan Woods, original and long serving guitarist with the band but so much more too. Musician, artist, Fish Brother, Sensible sidekick, and as someone who was lucky enough to meet him on a number of occasion, not only a perfect gentleman but a perfectly gentle man. I raise a glass!
Anyway, to horse…
In many ways, this is an album that Attila The Stockbroker, the man who gathered the band around him to evolve his songs down a more band orientated pathway, has been writing all his life. Those who know his work will be aware of his passion for politics, social justice, history and the deft way he has of highlighting modern issues through the use of historical parallels. His interest in the issues surrounding and following the English Civil War has always been obvious and so it was only a matter of time before he wrote a full album dedicated to those times.
1645 may have seen the end of the better documented period of the first chapter of the ECW but Restoration Tragedy 1649, as the name suggests, focuses on the period following that, the period of martial law under Cromwell, the revolt of the army, the execution of King Charles I and the new and ever shifting political, social and religious attitudes. Thankfully the CD comes with a wonderful booklet to walk you through the songs and spark your interest further.
Musically it is a wonderful blend of modern rock band and minimalist story telling, electric guitars, recorders, violin, mandola and any number of period instruments. Baroque ‘n’roll? Perhaps but the album really is about the narrative, an accessible, funny, poignant history lesson, one that discusses many issues which not only set this country down a path where parliament not monarchy would be the power but also one that has something important to say about the modern age, drawing parallels and cross referencing important players at a time when the division between the haves and have nots seems just as wide as it ever was.
If you are a fan of Attila The Stockbroker anyway then you will love this album and see it as a distillation of many of his core interests. If you were intrigued by Rev Hammer’s wonderful concept album based around the life of John Lilburne (who appears here in a clever musical triptych with Jeremy Corbyn and another, earlier bearded figure with the same initials) then this is also going to be your sonic cup of tea. New Model Army fans will also be pleased to note that Justin Sullivan also gets a subtle, nameless name check.
Brilliantly blurring the storylines between past and present, Restoration Tragedy is a great album and an important album too, one that reminds us that we don’t learn from the past, that someone always needs to challenge power but also that music can be informative whilst also being entertaining. Who knew that learning could be this much fun?