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Album Review

The temptation is strong to call the Blue Blokes 3 an unlikely grouping, but these guys do have a history together (in Tiger Moth, 3 Mustaphas 3, and Billy Bragg's Blokes), and Stubble, their first release, has nothing haphazard about it, however spontaneous it may sound. So welcome to the back porch of the fantasy music shack shared by Ian Anderson (of English Country Blues Band fame, not the Jethro Tull one!), Lu Edmonds (try to remember he once was in PiL and the Damned while listening to this record), and Ben Mandelson. On Stubble, the trio revisits old English tunes and blues-derived Americana, stretching their fingers from death folk to bluegrass and country blues. It's an all-string affair: acoustic guitar, slide guitar, cumbus, saz, mandolin, bouzouki, and banjo. And the three of them take turn singing lead. The playing is confident, varied, and entertaining, the songs well executed and creatively arranged (some tradition-crossing is involved). Most of all, despite the somber topics of some of the songs, Stubble is a "good times" affair, the musicians clearly thrilled to be playing together — back-porch spontaneity in all its glory. Highlights include the sweet-and-sour "Lovin' Henry," the beautiful traditional "Lord Allenwater," of which several other versions and variations exist (Alasdair Roberts recorded the most moving one under the title "Lord Gregory" in 2001), Anderson's own "Everybody's Killing Me" and "Crazy Fool Mumble," and the bluesy "Me and My Chauffeur Blues." Don't approach Stubble as a first outing, because it has nothing of the normal flaws of a debut. What you can expect, instead, is consummate playing and arranging by witty masters of folk music. ~ François Couture, Rovi

Stubble, Blue Blokes 3
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