When a friend with impeccable musical taste thrust a CD in my hand and said: “I think you’ll like this. It’s different. And they’re from Yorkshire.” I knew it was worth a listen.
King Joe by The Sentimentalists went in the player on the long drive to work and I sat in the car park when I got there so I could hear it through to the end. It was worth being late for.
Like The Smiths and The Beautiful South, its 13 tracks are a perfectly mis-matched blend of edgy lyrics and upbeat melodies. I say lyrics, but this is poetry set to music and most of it tells stories of Northern, working class life with dollops of depression and poverty alleviated by wit and the Ariana String Quartet.
Lyrics include: ”I contemplate my strange set of affairs, Having my pockets picked by millionaires, I wonder, are those Bullingdon bastards still awake, scheming of how much I don’t have they can take”. Even better is Track 3, “Old Sod”, my favourite.
The words are written by Leeds-based Joe Simbaud and Phil Fowler, from Castleford.
The beautiful arrangements by classical pianist Daniel Bath and lead vocals by Phil, an old punk turned actor, who has been cast in everything from Coronation Street and Emmerdale to Brassed Off.
Sixteen musicians, including the string quartet, play on the CD, and the line up plus Phil’s ability to perform have brought The Sentimentalists rave reviews for their live performances.
Mark Radcliffe and Andy Kershaw are fans. Radcliffe described their live show as “truly marvellous”. You can see what the fuss is about, as they’re playing a series of gigs and festivals, including Hebden Bridge Little Theatre on March 28; The Headingley Music Festival on June 13 and Bradford’s Threadfest on May 23.
Check out their website, www.sentimentalists.co.uk, which carries a quote by Reinhold Niebuhr (me neither – he was an American theologian) summing up their song writing philosophy “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.
*King Joe by The Sentimentalists is on Planet Records.