Seven years ago, at the Sark Folk Festival, Clameur De Haro added themselves to the tradition of bands from the Bailiwick of Guernsey who take what could sound like a novelty approach to their music, focussing on aspects of local life run through a folk and country filter, but make it something more than that.
Now, after quite some time since it was first mooted, their self-titled debut album has landed capturing nine of these tracks on disc.
If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing the band live you’ll be aware that a lot of their appeal comes from the sense of fun and energy they bring to whatever venue they are playing and, as Chinese Burn kicked off the record, I was a little concerned this joie de vivre had been lost in translation to disc with the lead vocals feeling a bit distant and the track feeling somewhat flat.
As it goes on though, I’m pleased to report, that this doesn’t last and while it’s never going to be possible to capture a band’s live presence on a studio record this does a reasonable job of capturing the essence of their essence in a suitably rustic way.
Second track, and one of my long time favourites from ‘The Clams’, Happy Little Mister Sunshine, demonstrates this ably providing a great, bouncy singalong with a positive, and realistic, message around mental health (without being worthy about it).
From there the band pay tribute to local politician John Gollop on Dear John, complete with a choir that balances cringe with good natured humour in just the right way, before they flex their hard rock (through a bluegrass filter) muscles on Bean Jar, sounding like AC/DC paying homage to the traditional Guernsey stew but with banjos instead of SGs.
A couple of songs take things in a more heartfelt and serious direction, starting with Til Death Us Do Part which, while a fine ballad, doesn’t quite fit with the tone up to this point so comes as a bit of shock, while Sinking Sand later on the disc fares somewhat better with a slightly more energetic feel behind the more ballad like tone.
Another live favourite, Devil’s Hole, lives up to expectations here with a fun barn dance like feel celebrating the exploits of the local air search organisation following one of their darker moments.
But there are two songs that really stand out as highlights for me, in slightly different ways, Iron Pushang and Blood Moon.
Iron Pushang has long been a live favourite with its tale of a mythical, bicycle based, pub crawl that goes off into whimsical flights of fancy that are captured excellently here with the folky country sound given a mariachi twist, while the whole thing is somewhat reminiscent of frontman Richie’s past band The Bensons (which is never a bad thing).
Blood Moon meanwhile closes the record and brings together the more subdued moments with the folk stylings and local references to tell a dark tale that borders on being a murder ballad.
While comparisons to the like of Hayseed Dixie have been an obvious touchstone for Clameur De Haro in the past, along with conceptual similarities to bands closer to home like The John Wesley Stone or The Space Pirates Of Rocquaine, their self-titled debut album sets out their own stall more strongly than ever.
In this it shows their own unique identity and captures something of their often chaotic and ramshackle live energy while highlighting a few of their songs particularly well.
While they might always be a band best seen live, as a memento of that, or if you’re unable to see them in the flesh, this is a fine substitute.