Norman Records

The Big Eyes Family Players & Friends - Folk Songs II

Our album of the week (3rd August 2012) 2 people love me. Be the 3rd...

Folk Songs II by The Big Eyes Family Players & Friends
Disclaimer: all reviews are simply the personal opinions of our staff and customers. They are not the official opinion of Norman Records as a whole. More details here...OK?
(1 review) 9/10


9/10 according to on Fri 03 Aug, 2012

Lovely to see a brand new Big Eyes Family Players album and this time it's a stunner. Whilst flipping through this morning's Guardian (alfresco with coffee and croissant, natch - actually I was in Tesco getting a Mars bar), I was delighted to see a glowing review of this album. It's one of the most heartwarming tales that James Green’s fluid outfit has gained some kind of cult success over the last few years and this could be the album to tip them over into more mainstream acceptance. The Big Eyes started out as a kind of orch-pop band with nods towards Love and The Left Banke, basically people from Yorkshire who sounded a bit French. But they’ve delved pretty full on into a folky world over the last few years most notably collaborating with James Yorkston on the predecessor to this album. Yorkston returns here but is joined by several other guest vocalists including the excellent Adrian Crowley, Nancy Elizabeth and Alasdair Roberts.

All the songs are traditional and there are highlights aplenty. ‘A Man Indeed’ is notable for lovely intertwining vocals from Mary Hampton and Sharron Kraus and it's great to hear Alasdair Roberts again on ‘The Coast O’ Spain’ somehow sounding 60 years older than his actual age, battling with some lovely clattering zither type instrument. Just brilliant. Modern day folk music can sometimes come across as contrived, convoluted, more made in music college than in a bleak Scottish hideaway but this stuff is so natural, the sounds flow from the musicians as if they were born to play this kind of music and each vocalist has empathy for the material and for the way it's played which is sometimes wonderfully dishevelled. If that is not enough this comes with a limited (to 100) bonus CD containing three extra tracks all enclosed in a handmade envelope. Highly, highly recommended.


Press release

“Consistently inventive, whether providing stately strings, purring pedal steel or psych-folk soundscapes” - The Observer . "A really stark and swirly instrumental blend of psychedelic influences held in check, as they might have been on a classic Elektra LP. The way they weave the acoustic guitar into the arrangements, really reminds me of mid-period Love." Byron Coley - The Wire On 6 August 2012 The Big Eyes Family Players & Friends are to release ‘Folk Songs II’, a continuation of 2009’s ‘Folk Songs’. The 12 track album, (also available as a special limited edition with 3 further tracks and postcards) features the following singers - Alasdair Roberts, Nancy Elizabeth, James Yorkston, Elle Osborne, Mary Hampton, Adrian Crowley, James William Hindle, Heather Ditch and Sharron Kraus; The musical arrangements were made by James Green (guitars /piano/ harp / zither / drums / percussion / organ / cello / glockenspiel / backing vocals), as well as Brian Ellis (bass guitar), David A Jaycock (synths / organ / drums), Paul Fletcher (percussion) and Lindsay Aitkenhead (viola). ‘Folk Songs II’  by The Big Eyes Family Players & Friends finds the boat has been pushed out a little more. The songs and stories are more sprawling, and arrangements show further disregard for any folk tradition than the previous ‘Folk Songs’ outing. James Green admits openly to not knowing much about folk music, or particularly having much time for folk authenticity. The aim was simply to illustrate the songs and the voices in the most appropriate way, and the only way that the Big Eyes Family can. Big Eyes was started in 2000 in Leeds by James as a private project, a naïve way of trying to create classical music, and somehow fuse his interests in the melancholia of Mike Leigh, Egon Schiele, Edward Elgar and The Birthday Party... 

... It soon outgrew the bedroom and a band was formed. Big Eyes recorded 4 albums over the next four years (for Pickled Egg Records) and split up in 2004. After this, The Big Eyes Family Players were formed, as a more collaborative arrangement. So far, they have worked with people like Jeremy Barnes (A Hawk And A Hacksaw), Terry Edwards (Gallon Drunk/Tindersticks), Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s), James Yorkston, James William Hindle and many more. The Big Eyes Family Players are currently based in Sheffield, UK  and they dwell somewhere within chamber music, folk music and perhaps pop music; guitars, strings, harmoniflute, organ, bass, drums, flute, sometimes vocals and other bits and bobs. The interest in recording folk material first started with the recording of the ‘Warm Room’ album in 2008. It was conceived as an ‘ode’ to folk music, so not a ‘folk album’ per-se, but a distilling of the elements that make up the form. It did however contain one traditional number, being ‘False True Love’, based on the Shirley Collins version. Shortly after this, and totally unconnected to it, James Yorkston put the idea to them to collaborate on an album of traditional material. They agreed, and the album was completed in January 2009, with the help of Nancy Elizabeth, Pip Dylan, David Wrench and Luke Daniels. The band also went on a tour of the UK/Germany with Mr Yorkston in late 2009 in support of the album. 

At the end of the ‘Folk Songs’ tours, James (Green) was considering what Big Eyes should do next. Mr Yorkston suggested another folk songs album, this time with a selection of singers/collaborators. James didn’t take that suggestion particularly seriously, but the seed was sown. Shortly after returning home, James contacted a few of his favourite singers and asked if they’d like to contribute to an album of traditional songs (and choose songs). They all agreed, somewhat surprisingly, and here it is. 


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