There are few folk bands that give such an impression of a slick, well-formed sound than that of Mawkin—an impressive feat due to their self-professed ‘DIY ethic’ and their unabashed, raucous energy. Their latest album The Ties that Bind, released in 2015, is a culmination of this celebrated chaos—the first few tracks hit with such power that the listener is left almost audibly bruised by the punch that their songs pack. But with more listening, it’s clear that Mawkin’s music has an impressive finesse and finish- each track is artfully crafted and carefully chosen. From the jazzy swing of ‘Jolly Well Drunk’ to the soft singing on ‘Searching for Lambs’, The Ties that Bind really gives the listener something back with each re-playing.
Mawkin’s aim of ‘modernising traditional folk material’ through their powerful energy and riveting performance comes across forcefully in this latest album- each track seems to offer a distinct breath of fresh air into the traditional songs used. However, one can’t help but feel this is a band that is still very much knowledgeable about its roots in the folk tradition: the album ends with a beautiful, staid interpretation of ‘Young May Moon’ with Nick Cooke’s soft melodeon solo accompanied by David Delarre’s skilful guitar and James Delarre’s fiddle which manage to softly keep time and playfully, gently twist the tune to reveal new angles within the music. Compare this to the absolute torrent of energy and boisterous music-making of the opening track ‘I Can Hew’, where vocals join with Lee Richardson’s pounding, rollicking drumbeat to create a controlled madness that drives the song along, and one can perhaps comprehend the sheer amount of fun and variety on this album. Indeed, critics have suggested that their varied collective on instruments and styles make them the rightful inheritors of Bellowhead’s now vacant place in the folk music repertoire: after listening to this album it is clear Mawkin have huge stage presence, and have the potential to perform fantastic live sets. Mawkin even supported Bellowhead on the band’s 2016 farewell tour- suggesting we may be hearing a lot more from them in the future.
The wide range of musical influences within the album is explained by the band’s background—with each member an accomplished musician in a variety of areas, it’s no surprise that ‘The Ties that Bind’ contains fascinating echoes of other genres. Richardson’s background in dance music, and Cooke’s earlier performances with Kate Rusby and False Lights, can perhaps be felt in the already-mentioned jazz swing of ‘Jolly Well Drunk’ and the stormy fiddle solos in ‘The Frenchy Set’—or perhaps that’s just my imagination. That’s the thing with this album- you are left never quite knowing what to expect next, with Mawkin’s music reflecting an eclectic, tightly-honed and powerful style that leaves the listener wondering what on earth is on the next track. Long may it last!
Mawkin are playing at The Jericho Tavern, Oxford
Thursday 27th October, 7.30pm, £7 discounted ticket for students.