JOE TOPPING The Vagrant Kings.
Joe Topping is well known on the British folk scene having played with Andy Irvine, Ashley Hutchings, Home Service, While and Matthews and various members of Fairport Convention. The album contains ten tracks of self-penned songs plus one cover and the style is a mix of folk, Americana and blues influences. No Matter Where I Ramble opens with a lonesome train whistle call from Toppings slide guitar as he tells his gentle, melodic tale of missing home during his eternal travels. This song also features pedal steel from Scott Poley, Irish flute from Andy Connally and soft yearning, harmony vocals. Cat On A Cold Slate Roof is a beguiling and passionate love song dedicated to Joe’s wife with smooth velvety vocals and a string quartet adding an emotional feel to the mix. I’m Not Gonna Worry is a sing along gospel rave up with swaggering New Orleans style brass riffs leading the way for a cast of thousands on backing vocals. The music here is hard to pigeon hole but the excellent songs are well crafted and the playing is superb throughout. Heartbroken Blues is an aching ballad of love and loss with yearning pedal steel and banjo giving a country feel. A heartbeat introduces the bluesy This Love And Lack Of Money as Topping sings “this love and lack of money is going to be the death of me”. The rocking Put The Ground Beneath My Feet finds Topping pleading “give me a chance that is rightfully mine I don’t want to stand cap in hand in the benefit line”. Other highlights here are the murderous tale of betrayal The Ballad Of William Burke and the beautiful closing love song Sweet Sixteen which features superb trumpet from Steve Parry. This is an excellent album full of wonderful songs from talented musicians which probably sits more easily in the folk and roots scene than in the blues world.