Charismatic as they were on stage I was unsure how their fairly minimal sound would translate on record, away from the energy of the live venue, but across these two records I wasn’t disappointed.
The Guitar and Bull Fiddle of… is a fine title as the record is purely made up of the two-piece doing what they do best – playing skiffle, country and rockabilly inspired sounds which combine the sweet tones of Chris Wilkinson’s hollow body guitar (with some dirt thrown in to mix things up from time to time), with the upbeat slapping rhythms of Yann Mahdjoub’s ‘bull fiddle’ (or double bass as its more commonly known).
While this two-piece sound has its occasional moments of sparseness it is clear that the band know how to use this to their benefit by adding texture to their sound.
In all, this combines to create something that brought to mind a mixture of The Stray Cats and a cabaret act playing the part of two dapper gents from the just pre-ted and pre-teenage era of the 1950s.
By the time they get to Cures What Ails You its clear Chris and Yann have developed their sound in some ways, while at the same time keeping true to what made the first album, and the live experience, something unique and special.
Here the band are joined at different points by extra strings and brass adding an extra depth to their sound, but never making it so full as to lose the occasional sparseness that marked the Baron’s sound on their first record.
Both albums also come with a sense that, while the music and image are serious, Chris and Yann are out to have fun as well and with somewhat anachronistic takes on modern ‘phenomena’ (such as in Whale Tail) this brings the albums the sense of charm that the band have when playing live.
For a modern reference point musically and stylistically, I would suggest Imelda May who similarly combines 50’s rockabilly sounds with modern concerns, and I think a live show of the Barons supporting the Irish songstress would make for a great show.
If you like the sounds of 50’s skiffle, rockabilly and country but are looking for something new, then you could definitely do worse than picking up some of the tunes of The Bonneville Barons.