Banter are back with their fourth album, and it is easy to see why they have been making such a name for themselves on the UK folk scene, and I have no doubt that if I was still living there that I would be following these guys around on tour as this is stunning from beginning to end. The focal point is often the wonderful Christine McVie-style vocals of Nina Zella, who also provides keyboards, with the rest of the band comprising Simon Care (melodeon, concertina), Tim Walker (drums, percussion, brass, vocals, dance calling) and Mark Jolley (bass guitar, guitar, fiddle, vocals). On this set we get traditional songs, modern songs, and even quite a few where the lyrics are traditional but they have new music written by Nina. The instrumental “Seneca Square”/”Soldiers Joy” is a delight, and the only way to really appreciate this is by dancing around the room, no matter who is watching. I remember seeing Fairport Convention on the Red and Gold tour in Salisbury back in 1987, and a group of us started reels to the side of the hall so we did not get in the way of those sat down, right until Simon Nicol stopped playing and told us to get to the front of the hall and if everyone else stayed sat that was their fault. Playing this song took me back in time nearly 40 years, but then the next number is “The Last Rose Of Summer” and everything slows down with Nina right at the heart, full of passion and emotion. “Picking a Ship” evokes the Cornish wreckers, luring the ships of their choice onto the rocks, full of emotion and drama.

With multi-instrumentalists in the band it is easy for the band to change the attack, with violins being at the fore here, not appearing at all in other places while the band are happy to play instrumentals, have Nina there on her own, or instead provide wonderful harmonies. Tim has a style very reminiscent indeed of Dave Mattacks, providing wonderful nuances here and there while Mark not only has a wonderfully deft touch on bass but double tracks himself at times so he sounds like Ric Sanders and Chris Leslie, while Simon Care shows just why he has been regarded as one of folk’s top players for so many years, working with Ashley Hutchings and Gareth Turner among others. The last song on this album is one the band has recorded before, as “Jake’s Jig” appeared on their debut, but here we have it a solo piece as Simon pays tribute to his longtime friend and musical collaborator Gareth Turner who sadly passed away in late 2023. In many ways this is a lovely way to finish the album as the music fades out, and the only thing left to do is put it on again and wonder at how folk music as vibrant rich and essential can still be produced this far into the 21st century, decades removed from its heyday in the early Seventies. Mind you, a few years back I travelled from one side of the world to the other just to attend Cropredy, and along with the rest of the 10,000 crowd marvelled at the awesome bands on show.

This album has been a revelation, and I know that at the end of the year when I am asked to produce my Top Ten that this will be amongst them. This is essential for anyone enjoys modern English style folk music, rooted in the tradition but with many modern elements being brought to bear.

Rating: 10/10