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Grimdon Records GRICD003 

Hard to believe it’s nearly a decade since I first encountered the mere striplings that were Granny’s Attic; I was blown away by the tremendous talents of the three musicians individually as much as by their strong group identity. In particular GA’s squeezeboxer/singer, who sported a name as distinctive as his striking musical presence – a natural ‘character’ who even then seemed possessed by a veritable tide of ebullience and passion that proudly wore the mantle of Messrs. Kirkpatrick and Coe (and something of the dashing air of Bellamy) while clearly driving their inspiration onward for a new generation. Two solo albums later, Cohen remains quite literally unmistakable, and inevitably even more confident in his presentation and expertise.

Rakes And Misfits is Cohen’s triumphant live-in-the-studio follow-up to his 2016 solo debut, Outway Songster, and delivers a scintillating (and satisfyingly thematic) selection of mainly traditional songs with a handful of tunes/sets. Cohen’s own compositions in the traditional idiom (in both categories) are supremely authentically voiced, no mistake (especially highwayman-broadside, Tom King). From thrusting opener, New Barbary, through to a lively music-hall number originally associated with Vesta Tilley, Cohen’s verve and energy never let up, not even on the delicate lilt of the altogether more intimate tune, Worcester Farewell. His signature robust, assured and fully-formed singing style imparts an air of commanding authority to everything he sings, while second to none is his mastery of the boxes – now numbering two each of melodeons and concertinas, each with its own special sound and closely attuned to the material, whether the astoundingly full-toned Oakwood Binci melodeon (on Countryman In Birmingham) or the fruity Bass concertina that parps its cheeky way through The Dancing Tailor.

Whatever he chooses to perform, Cohen is never less than totally upfront and solidly committed, though always with a frisson of subtle enhancement even within the rich canvas of voice and squeezebox. In any context, Rakes And Misfits is an album that gives an abundance of old-school unadulterated pleasure and maintains the high benchmark already set by Outway Songster in its respect paid to, and unbridled enthusiasm for, the tradition.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 138 of The Living Tradition magazine