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Tuesday, 22nd August 2017
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ahab - wits end

North West Folk music clubs picI loved ahab's terrific performance at Cropedy Festival.  They are blistering live...alt-country edge and sheer class.
- Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

Getting the nod from a well known broadcaster is normally something to be pleased about.  Coming from Bob Harris, the Champion of Bland, it may be a curse.  Remember, this is the man who bigged up Rita Coolidge on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Whispering Bob isn't alone in his admiration.  Simon Mayo describes ahab as the “real deal.”  This is an unfortunate phrase.  The boys wouldn't do anything so naughty as partake in gambling, and besides, those late night poker sessions play hell with the complexion.  Ok, it's not that sort of deal, but the opportunity was too good to miss.

By now you may have a sneaking suspicion that your reviewer isn't 100% sold on this act and you'd be right.  Wits End is safe, corny and seriously soppy, with whispery, oh so sensitive boy band vocals.  This is bluegrass with the hard edges sandpapered away.  The Monkees meets Crosby, Stills and Nash but without the good bits.  (Oddly, there's another Rita Coolidge connection in that last sentence, that possibly involves the woman using her mouth for activities other than singing.)

Much is made of ahab's harmonies and while they're competent in that department there's no need to have them on every bloody track.  “Johanna, Johanna she left me,” they warble at one point. She was probably bored. Or in need of another sick bag.   At least the song has a melody that can be remembered five minutes after being heard, which is more than can be said for the rest of the album.

It's hard to get away from the idea that Callum Adamson and Co are exploiting a niche market in order to get into pop music via the side door.  If this was the eighties they'd be wearing low slung guitars and spandex. 

Not everyone shares the antipathy. The band have supported Bellowhead and some readers of this site confess to having enjoyed their music at festivals.  Each to his/her own.  For this listener, ahab are the Osmonds wth mandolins, minus the teeth.

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