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Broadside Electric • 321 Grayling Ave., Narberth, PA  19072
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Mostly Folk, May-June 1996
Portland, ME

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Broadside Electric is a Philadelphia band that plays Celtic folk music with a decided British edge. Unlike most American folk music, wherein when people disagree, one of them gets on a train and leaves without making a fuss, in British folk music, people often die bloodily, and happy endings are as rare as a banshee with a positive outlook on life. As the band notes, "We ain't no Puff the Magic Dragon," which means they'll never share the stage with old-style folkies Peter, Paul and Mary, who likely would go screaming into the night if they heard this band. The twa corbies that are the mascots of Mostly Folk fully approve of their attitude: songs of bloody affairs that have resulted from love gone wrong, enough noise to be noticed over the wailing of Fenris, and a solid Celtic underpinning to their music.

The release of More Bad News, the third album by Philadelphia-based Broadside Electric, is wonderful news for any fan of electric folk music. This trio of musicians manages to blend electric instruments in with acoustic ones without turning their music into folk-rock. Their sound is darkly brooding and almost timeless, because they draw on such a wide variety of sources for inspiration.

The album is comprised of a number of Child Ballads (or versions thereof), a Woody Guthrie song, and Irish folk song, a French song, and tunes from France, Bulgaria, Ireland, Shetland, and Macedonia. This fluency in such a variety of musical traditions makes their songs seem like they could have come from anywhere. Their sound is distinctly their own, inspired by many sources and yet indebted to none. Following good tradition, almost all the songs on the album are bloody and depressing. Hence the title. Well, all except one - "Lord Bateman"; but in the liner notes they apologize: "There is a happy ending, but we think it's a good song anyway." But don't worry, two of the other ballads, "Babylon" (Child #14) and "Sheath and Knife"(Child #16), more than make up for the happy ending of "Lord Bateman." "Babylon" is the story of a robber who goes about his daily murderous business, only discovering the identity of his victims after the fact. "Sheath and Knife" is the story of a brother and sister who get into trouble, and get out the ugly way. The death count is much lower, but the circumstances are quite a bit more sick and twisted. Nevertheless, it is still quite a beautiful song. There are also a few songs that are just a lot of fun, like "As I Roved Out," an Irish song which describes in detail yet another reason not to have casual sex, and the French song and tune set "J'ai V le Loup" (with "J'ai V le Loup, le Reynard, et la Bellette," put together because of the name), which just makes you want to get up and dance.

- Tevis Stites-Robertson
 
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