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JOE TOPPING - The Vagrant Kings

JOE TOPPING - The Vagrant Kings
Fellside Recordings FECD265

t’s a bit of a worry sometimes when a member of an established group releases a solo CD. Often it can be just a continuation of that group, other times just a way of putting out material not good enough or suitable for that band. I needn’t have worried with this release but, of course, I should have known that because it is on the excellent Fellside label.

Joe is a member of festival favourites Elbow Jane where he shares the mic and songwriting with two others, as well as a part of the Rainbow Chasers. Here he has put together a band, The Vagrant Kings, comprising multi instrumentalist and multi talented Steve Parry, Jack McCarthy who provides some imaginative percussion, with Scott Poley at the front with his pedal steel. Joe also provides guitars, banjo and harmonica.

The material is all self penned except for one traditional track. There is a maturity about not only the writing but also the arrangements. I love the brass backing and instrumental breaks on Leaves On The Line, whilst the opening percussion and use of flute on the The Ballad Of William Burke is just brilliant, probably my favourite track. Styles vary from track to track but all are held together by the way Joe delivers the songs, personal to him, but all accessible to the listener. He has a voice which has the ability to move from powerful to extremely emotional as the material demands.

This is a good piece of work and I, for one, hope The Vagrant Kings get the chance to stay together, despite all the other projects they are involved in. Well worth a listen.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.