Cunning Folk - Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground album review

Low-key acid folk from South East London scholar.

Cunning Folk - Ritual Land, Uncommon Ground album artwork

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In a previous life, George Nigel Hoyle was bassist in Britpop also-rans Gay Dad, though his commercial peak came in 2005, when Lee Ryan (formerly of boy band Blue) took one of his songs, Army Of Lovers, into the top three. Since then, he’s become far more of an attractive proposition, steeping himself in folk tradition and its attendant history, recording albums as Nigel Of Bermondsey and GentleFolk.

He also runs the South East London Folklore Society, a monthly get-together in which like-minded souls discuss everything from Pagan witchcraft to Shakespeare. Hoyle’s latest incarnation, as Cunning Folk, explores the idea of ritual landscapes, his songs detailing the hidden histories of Britain and the connections between past and present. This Is How It Starts is typical, both musically and thematically, with Hoyle addressing heritage and identity over hushed acoustic guitars. Occasionally enlivened by woodwinds, the songs speak of ley lines, wild magic and the Pendle witch-hunts, bathed in pale tones of psychedelia. And while Hoyle’s voice may be a little too nondescript at times (like a more prosaic Graham Nash), the album often makes for a curiously arresting listen.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.