One of the most enduring touchstones of the British folk and progressive scene, the Strawbs mainman the esteemed Dave Cousins has never shied away from contentious material. And now he’s in his seventies he seems even more determined to rattle cages from his home in Kent.
After a plush piano orchestral overture lurches into a percussive storm, Strawbs conjure a narrative, The Nails From The Hands Of Christ, that examines modern religious fetishism. Having set the tone – think Midlake for old timers – Cousins takes relish in constructing the perfect soundtrack for the Winter Solstice. Whether you agree with his tongue-in-cheek view of contemporary morality on the Ten Commandments or not, it’s difficult to avoid being sucked into to a cautionary tale that makes short shrift of the meme generation, TV cooks, footballers’ wives, instant talent show fame et al. It’s a kind of Money For Nothing but with better lyrics. The title track is the killer in every sense. The 47-years-later sequel to Tony Hooper’s The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake (from Dragonfly) this is hauntingly redolent of Bowie at his bleakest – the two Daves often shared stages and joints back in the day – and sets the seal on one of the year’s more imaginative albums.