With the obvious exception of Morrissey, Manchester has produced its fair share of musical talent in its time and The Travelling Band are the latest in a long line of gifted musicians to hail from there. They recorded their first album, 'Under the Pavement', in New York which was released some time later to considerable praise from the music press, and this follow up album 'Screaming is Something' released last year is, to my mind, even better and will, hopefully, lead to the band gaining the recognition they deserve.
This five piece band describe themselves as 'a loose collective' and I suppose their music could best be described as being of the folk-rock-pop genre (think the Fleet Foxes meets Oasis) and their songs are full of melodic tunefulness coupled with great close harmony singing with thought provoking and intelligent lyrics. They haven't yet reached the dizzy heights of fame but they are currently travelling around the UK with their 'Hands Up' tour which even included The Grand in Clitheroe which just goes to show that this band are working their way up the musical ladder the hard way rather than fast-tracking through some mediocre TV talent show. Their current tour also takes in various summer music festivals including Glastonbury, so there's lots of opportunity for people to hear this great band for themselves.
The album, which was recorded on the Isle of Mull kicks off with 'Fairweather Friends', a sweetly melodic acoustic song. Jo Dudderidge takes lead vocal on this track and his light and slightly husky tenor with the occasional detour into a falsetto is perfectly suited to this rather introspective little song which begins with simple acoustic guitar accompaniment before being joined by drums and harmonising backing singers which gradually builds the sound. This album was one of my recommendations from Amazon because I liked the Fleet Foxes and the similarity to them is quite evident during the harmonies, although the band certainly retain their own unique sound.
Adam Gorman takes lead vocals for the title track 'Screaming is Something'. This song has a rather more pop sound and there are elements at the start of the song where I could almost swear I was listening to Oasis, but that could just be because of the pronounced Mancunian accent. As the song moves into the finale, the Brit pop sound morphs into something altogether more country with the introduction of banjo, fiddles and harmonica.
'Sundial' continues the more American country sound but with orchestral and pop overtones. The song has an insistent drum beat and a rhythmic theme played on fiddles. This is followed by 'Battlescars' which, for me, is the standout song on the album. Jo Dudderidge takes lead vocals again and his voice is just right for this folk/country oriented track which sounds far more Deep South America than North West England. The comparisons made between the Travelling Band and the Fleet Foxes are more evident on this track not just because of the harmonies but with similar sounding backing track too. The song begins softly and gently gaining in resonance as it progresses before fading once more into a softly poignant ending.
'Magnetic Anywhere' is another track with a definite Fleet Foxes sound. It's a pleasant and melodic song but is one of those tracks which is easily forgotten because it doesn't seem to have any kind of memorable hook. To my mind, this is the weakest link on the album.
'Under the Pavement' was the name of the band's first album which didn't include any track of that title which has now been rectified here. This song has a mid-tempo beat with the Manchester accent very much in evidence in the vocals, again producing shades of Oasis but as the backing track is American country the overall effect manages to belong entirely to the Travelling Band.
'Hindsight' moves much more into rock territory. It starts slowly and quietly but the folksy sound soon gives way to much rockier elements with clashing guitars and a strong, definitive beat. In complete contrast, 'Horizon Me and You' is very much a return to the Brit pop sound. In fact, it seems to be that the songs with Adam Gorman taking lead vocals are the ones most reminiscent of Oasis. His voice has the same cadence and intonation as the Gallagher brothers.
The only non-Travelling Band song on the album is 'One Dime Blues' which was written by Blind Lemon Jefferson back in the 1920s, the Band's interpretation is far less blues and much more folk with some excellent acoustic guitar playing. Somehow the transformation of blues to folk works very well and the band have made this uniquely their own.
'On the Rails' is the longest track and the one which brings the album to a close. It begins with a strange, rather experimental sounding intro until the guitars join in and it becomes more mainstream. This is a rather mournful song and provides the album with a somewhat muted and downbeat conclusion.
I'd summarise this album as being a pretty good second attempt but I do feel the Travelling Band have a way to go yet before they hit on a totally winning formula. They've mastered their own particular sound and despite the fact that I've drawn comparisons with Oasis and The Fleet Foxes, the overall sound produced by the band is uniquely their own and it's a very pleasant sound at that. To my mind the main drawback to this second album is that the songs included on the album are all very much in the same vein which makes it seem rather lacking in texture and a bit one dimensional. Having said that, there are some flashes of brilliance and I'd certainly single out Battlescars as the best song on the album and worthy of release as a single. This band do a superb folk version of the Stone Roses 'Waterfall' and I'm surprised that it hasn't been included on either of their albums. It's good that most of the tracks are self compositions but I feel they could safely include a couple more cover versions of other people's music without compromising their own talents.
Success in the music business is always a matter of luck and I can't really see this album sealing the band's success. The Travelling Band may not yet be a name on everyone lips but they certainly have the potential to be a truly great ensemble and with a little extra polish I can only see them going from strength to strength.
The album is currently available online from £6.50. The Travelling Band's version of Waterfall can be viewed on YouTube as can several of the tracks from this album.