The 4th outing from acoustic based Pavlov’s Cat, and the first full length studio recording since 2004’s Burlington Road, bristles with articulate venom and intrigues with story songs and a cast of eccentric characters. Singer-songwriter James Hibbins explains, “The objective was a make an old-fashioned, honest album with a coherent feel and look, a sleeve with notes and lyrics”. The sound is stripped back with just enough ornamentation on each track from Hibbins (acoustic & electric guitars), producer/percussionist/keyboard player David Booth and long-term live collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Bernard Hoskin (guitars, mandolin, violin, bass). “We took an early decision make it feel real, almost like a live performance. We chose more expressive takes over the most perfect, leaving in squeaks, creaks and the occasional bum note. Minimal compression was applied during the mastering which means it should all sound natural and unproduced but you might need to turn it up a bit.” The resulting feel is reminiscent of Wings’ Band on the Run on full band arrangements or early Elliott Smith on more intimate tracks. Drawing on the best of band’s live set and specially written new compositions, these are Hibbins’ most overtly political songs yet, referencing 9/11, economic crisis and Middle East warmongering but somehow within an optimistic context of real characters awaiting a rendezvous in a greasy cafe, telling ghost stories or making drunk reminiscences of half remembered loves. As ever, the band are difficult to categorise drawing on and re-writing elements of English and Irish folk but with a sound which could equally well be filed under acoustic pop/rock, singer-songwriter or indie.
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Really exceptional & original British folk. Part stripped back & delicate acoustics, part larger band sound & all listening pleasure. Doesn’t insult the listener’s intelligence & gets better with every play.
From the off their sound implies that Pavlov’s Cat grew up in the same folk-pop royalty enclave as the minor Thompsons and Wainwrights and had invested their teen years carefully absorbing the lessons of their elders and betters, all the better to produce something like "At The Races" – an album as inclined to tip its hat to Tim Buckley as it is to The Copper Family, and with equal veneration.
If you’d blindfolded me and told me to identify the artist performing the oft-covered folk ballad `Mathew Groves’ I’d have said it was Seth Lakeman – whether you see this as a recommendation or a warning sign I’ll leave up to you – but for those who enjoy their acoustic music with a smattering of trad. arr. memes signposted `to The North Country’ you could go a long way without finding anything more fit for purpose.
James Hibbins and Pavlovs Cat, have produced an exceptional album. Raw and very authentic. I absolutely loved every minute. In particular the interpretation of ‘the parting glass’ left me with goose bumps. The first time i felt i really WANTED to leave an amazon review. Get it.
On Amazon UK, 10th April 2012
"At The Races" is the first Pavlov’s Cat album for some seven years, bringing the album count up to four, coincidently the same number as people in the band. A combination of songs written by lead vocalist/guitarist James Hibbins and traditional tunes arranged by him, contemporary in style, there is also a touch of the old hippy about the album, which isn’ a bad thing. I’m sure "Old Dust & Patchouli" will resonate with a lot of people. The album kicks off with two traditional tracks to set the mood for the album and does this rather well, especially "Death & The Lady".