CD /LP/DD – Released 2nd June 2023 . Tiny Global Productions
Since we’ve known him, Robert Lloyd (head honcho of The Nightingales) has made quite clear his enormous affection for the songs and sounds of Freakwater, the duo of Janet Beveridge-Bean and Catherine Irwin who’ve been wrongly denied their place as rightful and wilful progenitors of alt-country’s ‘movement’, which (frankly) is to their credit. Their genius in offering absolute authentic to the sound old-time Appalachian folk music with a modern façade that in no way negates tradition (one of their albums is titled Feels Like The Third Time) is unparalleled within the genre, and Freakwater remain under-appreciated.
After the start of Covid, Robert dared approach Janet with the idea of recording together. Over the course of the long pandemic, songs were bandied about for months, and when recording was finally practical, a band was assembled with dates set up for a recording session in Valencia, Spain. Robert and Janet were joined by Robert’s long-time ally, Pete Byrchmore, the musical foil for Robert’s solo album on Virgin and a former Nightingale, Mark Bedford, the bassist for Madness and Terry Edwards’ Near Jazz Experience, and Pablo Roda, Spanish mystery drummer, couldn’t have worked out more perfectly.
Tracks were selected without regard for collective presentation, just the goal of walking out of the studio with an album of perfect gems. Forget Lee & Nancy or George & Tammy, Rob and Janet have an immediate chemistry that only sounds long-lived – and too uniquely them to merit any comparison.
The title track, Black Cat, Dark Horse is the sole Lloyd / Bean / Byrchmore composition and one of the record’s highlights. Jim Elkington, collaborator with Jeff Tweedy and Richard Thompson, contributes Heavy Reckonings and a song written with Janet, The True Lovers’ Knot And The Lie, while Robert adds reworkings from past releases – Sweet Georgia Black and Black Country (with Pete) – not to mention the unreleased Eggs And Bacon. Janet brought One Shot and the unheard Freakwater song Arc Of A Smile. Covers of tunes from Dion and The Monkees and a magnificent Jon Langford song, “Tears Like Stars” round out the album.
We daresay the album is among the finest you’ll hear in 2023. That it doesn’t fit perfectly into any preconceived genre is a testament to its quality. “Songcraft” is a word used infrequently today, yet Black Cat, Dark Horse will show that good songs endure. We’re proud that Robert and Janet will find some new admirers through this album’s release. The Michael Cumming / Stewart Lee film King Rocker made a case for Robert Lloyd-as-lost- hero; this album furthers that idea and shows a compelling side of Janet’s talent and abilities which will be a surprise to her fans and serve as an entry point to exploring her many other compelling projects.
Songs: Black Cat, Dark Horse • Heavy Reckonings • Wake Up Baby • Sweet Georgia Black • Eggs And Bacon • Arc Of A Smile • Take A Giant Step • The True Lovers’ Knot And The Lie • Tears Like Stars • One Shot • Black Country
Never avoid The Nightingales and I am someone who once helped put them on stage via a date at The Factory, Porth several moons ago. It is always exciting to sample fresh merchandise from Robert Lloyd and it is once again a triumph for the ultimate cult artist (perhaps ‘cultimate’ can become a word). Robert proves he is not a has been, a never been but he is also a force with Janet Beveridge-Bean!