The whole “Pledge Music” phenomenon has really separated the bands who think the world owes them a living from the ones who work their arses off to build a dedicated fan-base, a fan-base who are happy to put their money where it matters in these increasingly austere times.
One band who are certainly not found wanting in the whole “work ethic” department are folk/rock duo Steel Threads (OK, they’re a duo since the departure of Double Bassist Stuart Eastham, who left the band after the album was recorded). I’d imagine it must be quite a nerve wracking experience embarking on the whole Pledge thing, I mean what if no one ACTUALLY likes you… Well the aforementioned dedicated fan-base did the guys proud, with pledges flowing in and eventually reaching 131% of the band’s target.
So we pledged (Yep, it’s not all about the freebies at cackblabbath.online, Personally I went for the vinyl, obviously) and we waited impatiently for the band to get their fingers out and get the album recorded. Well the wait is now over and For Those Who Are Left is now available in digital and good old fashioned physical formats, including the aforementioned 12″ joyous disc of spinny black plastic.
Actually, vinyldoes have its drawbacks, playing in the car for a start, just as well I have the CD then, it’s been keeping me company on the long drives up and down the M1 that seem to be such a big part of my life of late. I’ve always been something of a fan of what is loosely termed “folk-rock” (I blame Mike Scott), and have followed Steel Threads since I first saw them live at Les Fest earlier this year. To play this sort of no frills, stripped down music live takes a special talent, and talent is something that Laura, Neil and Stuart are not short of. They always put on a captivating and enjoyable performance, be it at a big do like Les Fest… or a railway station in Dewsbury with drunks shouting “SLAYER!!!” at them.
Best way to shut those guys up… Play a folk version of Angel Of Death.
For Those Who Are Left is an album that draws you in from pretty much the first listen. Now I know for some of us (or maybe just me) the word “Folk” can conjure up images of pipes, beards and singers with one finger in their ear stamping their foot in time to some to some trad-arr “classic”. Well Steel Threads are folk for the modern age, serving up a surprisingly varied musical tableaux which features a load of different themes and moods.
It’s undeniably folk, but it’s infused with sounds and influences that give it that something a little extra. It’s modern folk which deserves to be heard, and it’s mercifully free of the whiff of trad-arr tweed.
The appeal of the album is down to a combination of factors, with the tunes obviously being the main one. Accomplished song writing and deft touches in the arrangement certainly serve to keep things interesting as the band meander through the 11 thoughtful little tales that make up the tracks on tFor Those Who Are Left. You’ll probably already be familiar with lead single Beautiful Friend, and that sort of sets the tone for what’s on offer. It’s nice to see how the few basic traditional ingredients can be mixed and matched to produce something varied and really rather special. Now that Stuart has left it’ll be interesting to see how things have to change, his Double Bass is certainly an integral part of the sound on the album. The production job is spot on too, it captures the nuances of Steel Threads, Neil’s guitar and Laura’s soaring violin, in perfect detail without making anything sound over produced.
Although Neil handles most of the vocal duties, one of the highlights for me is when Laura takes the mic for the beautiful Follow You, where her violin and voice work together nigh-on perfectly.
It’s not very often that I hear an album from the whole loosely defined genre of “folk-rock” that immediately strikes me as having a long term appeal. I’d never class myself as a folkie (can’t grow the beard for a start) but For Those Who Are Left will appeal to them as much as it will appeal to the rock’n’roll crowd. It’s nice to hear something that will have a definite listening longevity, and I’ve certainly not listened to anything “folk-rock” on repeat quite this much since Fisherman’s Blues came out.