Other than the album cover, there is barely ever any need for other illustration on reviews. And yet, when it comes to Cardboard Fox there is something of a picture being worth a thousand words.
There is a promo shot of the band – a four piece from the West Country – and it resonates in a way that few do.
The photograph of the group – quite apart from the fact that bassist John has a stunning pair of red trousers on – tells their story. Pictured on a cliff on the English coast, this is a young quartet that is rooted in their home country, but as they have shown on their previous two releases, take that traditional British folk and infuse it with something from across the Atlantic. That is still true here, but along with that they add a twist of their own.
On “Topspin” that left turn comes in the shape of a cover of “Fireflies” from Owl City. Cards on the table, MV hasn’t heard the original, but it is – I am told – a synth pop song. Cardboard Fox make it their own, with a wonderful rendition.
But evidence that they are shot through with a modernity is elsewhere too. “Right Swiper” is brilliantly quirky. A tale of tinder dating, it contains the line: “you’re the Wallace to my Gromit” – probably the only times that line will ever be used in music, less flippantly, it is a fine example of a band that has no truck with what it is supposed to do.
The idea that they are on a slightly different track is there from the opening song. “Empty Skies” talks of taking a break from humankind, over a beautiful folky backdrop and the vocals from sisters Laura and Charlotte Carrivick are simply gorgeous.
The violin work of Laura on “Dynamite” acts as a pulse for the track and there is a real beauty in the darkness of “Awful As Silence” which has a real haunting quality, while there are hints of Old Crow Medicine Show’s ability to kick up a hoedown about “Roll Away”.
The album’s other cover breathes new, bluesy life into Gillian Welch’s “Tear My Stillhouse Down” as if to highlight how versatile Cardboard Fox are, as the evocative “Until The Dawn” comes with a real sense of longing and a more sparse arrangement.
“On Your Side” belongs to a different time, a jazzy thing, it invokes the spirit of the prohibition era with no problem at all, and “Ghosts” ends the collection with a peaceful, easy feeling (as the Eagles might have said) and finds them with no where left to roam.
Cardboard Fox have won awards all over the place so far in their short careers – and according to their bio they’ve made Bill Oddie cry, so much did he like their last record – and this one is similarly set for honours. “Topspin” is rooted in the timelessness of the past, but it belongs to the future and it is the sound of a band who isn’t afraid to do whatever feels right.