Steve Bonham and the Bishop

Review of the launch of Songsmith: Steve Bonham

Posted on: Monday, 20 October 2014
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Lovely review of the National Brewery Gig by Tim Goodwin


There are some combinations of food that you feel instinctively just shouldn’t work together but do; like chilli and chocolate or cheddar and brandy snaps. In fact, for those brave enough to try them, they not only work but succeed in surprising ways. The same is true of Steve Bonham’s new album, Songsmith. On paper the line up of a folk-leaning guitarist, a classically-trained tuba player, an Irish whistle and accordion player and the fiddler out of Lindisfarne, all supported by a heavy rock bass player, just shouldn’t work. But the reality is something very different.

The album was launched at the National Brewery Centre in Burton-on-Trent last week and from the first song it was clear that the album was a winner. Sister of a Dirty Moon, the song that opens the album, is a catchy foot-tapping number with a chorus that you’ll find yourself humming for days afterwards. Steve Doherty’s whistle weaves effortlessly through the song; decorating but never intruding. Take the First Step, the third track on the album, introduced the harmony vocals of Sammy Carter and gives fiddler Tom Leary a chance to hold centre stage with some great playing. The tuba is an instrument that has an unfair reputation as the flat-footed clown of an oom-pah band but once you’ve heard Chris ‘The Bishop’ Lydon’s wonderfully expressive playing on Badger Hill, you’ll never be able to hear the instrument in the same way again. The song itself is a beautiful evocation of a carefree childhood in a small rural village and is a personal favourite of mine. The deceptive simplicity of You’ve Been Running Much Too Long also shows Steve Bonham’s voice at its most lyrical. The track also shows what a flexible bass player Kev Moore is. The laid back Latin American beat here contrasting with the drive of tracks like Can Someone Tell Me.

There’s no such thing as a typical Steve Bonham song; every song on the album has its own unique story to tell and is set in its own musical landscape that suits the song perfectly. So, if you enjoy your strawberries with black pepper, avocados with your sardines or just enjoy a taste of something different, you’ll enjoy the refreshingly different sound of Songsmith.

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