INDIAN SUMMER Esoteric Hdb
A nice pair of Jugs
Ah, progressive jug band music. The first of these records came out in 1969, on the Harvest label alongside the likes of Kevin Ayers and Pink Floyd. And yet in retrospect this is a pretty straightforward rootsy album with growled vocals, picked guitars, banjo, harp, the breathy sounds of a jug and, rather ostentatiously, kazoo on the opener, 38 Plug and various others.
It probably sounded outrageous at the time but the collection of back porch bluesy numbers now seems unremarkable, even if the album (recorded in the rarefied surrounds of Abbey Road Studios) is a decent listen. Occasionally the music moves away from its tight direction, such as on Sundown, sung by Liz Hanns, a more ethereal blush number in keeping with the times. But the killer is one of two bonus tracks, Lady Of Shallott, a single with a wild electric folk rockfeel.
By 1970 and the second album Hanns had gone leaving a nucleus of Denis Parker on vocals and guitar, Brian Strachan on guitar and mandolin and Gary Compton on harp. The name had shrunk but the line-up had expanded from a five- to a seven-piece, featuring the lovely vocals of Anne Matthews as well as pattering percussion, and very much merged theirtraditional sound with something more eclectic.
Parker’s vocals which on the debut album sounded rather backwoods now seem more like Captain Beefheart and the music (with considerably lessjug) reflects the Captain’s ‘unpindownable’ style, albeit with a British edge – think Donovan’s mixing of folk with something strangely American.
It’s a cracking album, with a wealth of influences and that wayward 1970s anything-goes attitude – and you could easily imagine them reformed and sharing a stage with Mumford & Sons. Nick Dalton