July 18th, 2017 / Posted in General News
Here’s something to cool you down in the heatwave. It’s a jolly long way off but are pleased to announce our Christmas 2017 tour. One gig – at the Royal Traditions, Dungworth – sold out months ago, so lest you want to miss out, and bearing in mind the limited and continually decreasing number of shopping days, you’d better get spending. Forget that long-awaited summer holiday. Who needs it when they could be revelling in our seasonal stupidity in only 4 months’ time?
A few firsts on this tour – maiden voyages to Henry Tudor House in Shrewsbury, The Atkinson Southport, and Tuppeny Barn in West Sussex. A chance to work with schoolchildren at Stanley Halls in Croydon. And also in the same parish, two consecutive nights at the wonderful Oval Tavern.
But for now, time to top up our tans, which at this rate will still be glowing brightly come Yuletide.
March 16th, 2017 / Posted in General News
As the weather heats up, so do we. In fact we’re getting rather steamed up at the thought of our first trip to Costa del Folk, a festival to be held in a hotel by a swimming pool in Ibiza. Of course, as we get into shape in preparation, our paramount concern is to ensure that no tan lines are showing. We should be nicely browned in readiness for our UK Spring tour, this year taking in our home festival at Chippenham, welcome returns to Chester and Upton Folk Festivals, our first visit to Lincoln LPAC, and a joint gig with the Andover Museum Loft Singers and the Foxglove Trio at Andover’s The Lights.
Looking further ahead, we’re delighted to have been invited back to Cambridge Folk Festival in July, and Swanage Folk Festival in September. Although in order to maintain our stunning looks, and bearing in mind typical English summer weather, we may have to resort to spray-on tans. See you by the pool. P&P
December 10th, 2016 / Posted in General News
Today is just over midway through our Christmas tour of duty, so we thought it high time we touched base with you, our loyal fan (s).
It’s also high time we dispelled any sordid rumours and false insinuations about our lifestyles. Far from being penniless, down-at-heel itinerants, we, thanks to stadium-sized audiences (low numbers,but huge people) and soaring CD sales are simply basking in the lap of luxury. Living it up? You bet.
Therefore, at this season of goodwill we feel beholden to share with you a pictorial record of our sojourns of splendour and self-indulgence. Feast your eyes on these!!
- Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to stay in any nunber of Travelodges, many of which have been upgraded. We’re of the opinion that, at long last, they are value for money. Here’s the Chesterfield lodge:
2. If you thought that was good, see the inside of the Cambridge Travelodge. Not bad for a second-rate university town!
3. Of course, such fame and glory comes with a downsde or two. Not least being mobbed by fans. Our maiden voyage to the Isle of Man was bound to draw out the crowds – thank goodness security was on hand to protect us.
4. Lest it go to our heads, we should remind ourselves how fortunate we are to be in such an exalted position. Being supported by lowly and often struggling artists only serves to highlight our privileged, and highly deserved status. Here’s the support act in Towcester.
5. Red carpet treatment? Pah. Here’s the superior golden version, laid for us over Clifton Bridge on the way from BBC Bristol to Halsway Manor.
6. When it all gets too much, an oasis of respite can be found in the form of a Travelodge garden. Here’s one near Colchester, designed we believe by Capability Brown.
7. And so to tonight’s opulent boudoir. A bed of roses swathed in the perfumed mist at Mongomery Castle.
November 22nd, 2016 / Posted in General News
Already sick of shameless seasonal advertising? Bored of blatant Christmas cashing-in? Have the flagrantly early high street plugs got your Yuletide goose? Never fear….
Belshazzar’s Feast is delighted to announce its customary Christmas Tour – your opportunity to drive away all melancholy, as Paul and Paul don their gay apparel and treat you to an offering of festive frivolity, midwinter mischief, audience participation/humiliation . . . and some music. Go tell it on the mountain!
A word of warning to the wise…some venues have nearly sold out (unlike us). So pull up your stockings and get booking now, for an evening you certainly won’t forget!
June 7th, 2016 / Posted in General News
We’re back safe and sound, following a pretty intensive May Tour which took in two weeks in the Cumbrian hills, Shepley Folk Festival, and a ripped tyre. A quieter time ahead for Belshazzar’s, with Priddy and Derby Folk Festivals some way off on the horizon – though we’re both up to our eyes in other projects. And gardening. Time to pot on…
August 12th, 2015 / Posted in General News
Greetings from the seaside. fro the last 2 weeks we’ve been soaking up the positive ions in Sidmouth and Broadstairs, at their respective Folk Weeks.
After an opening night guest slot with the Andover Museum Loft Singers, we spent most if Sidmouth working in social/historical dances. We were given carte blanche to assemble a band around us, under the moniker ‘Sartin and Hutch and their Impossible Combinations’. Here’s one of those Combinations, featuring a jovial Hutch:
Then on to Broadstairs, where after yesterday’s early morning (10.30am) Meet the Band session we headlined a lovely afternoon concert on the main stage. Since then, we’ve been playing for dances. Due to this morning’s early start we forewent breakfast – Hutch was so hungry he resorted to self-cannibalisation:
Tonight we bid farewell to the town, and head back west. Shame, as things were just starting to look interesting…..
May 17th, 2015 / Posted in General News
As the strains of ‘Barwick Green’ herald the close of the Archers Omnibus, we turn our thoughts to the fun we have on tour, and the fulfilment and pleasure gained from our itenerant and varied lifestyles.
Back to Desert Island Discs…
December 11th, 2014 / Posted in General News
We ought to be ashamed of ourselves – it’s a very long time ago since we last blogged. How very remiss. But what with our intensive exercise regimes and regular visits to the hairdresser we simply haven’t had the time. Until now, a day off during our Stocking Fillers 2014 Tour. And what better way to spend a day off?
So far, we’re 6 gigs in, and thanks to full houses and a new credit card reader our bank manager is delighted with us. Our next blog will be winging its way to you from Lucerne. Or Luton.
Our new surge in popularity must be due in no small part to our growing presence on local radio. The first port of call was in Chelmsford, at BBC Essex with Tony Fisher, who’s hiding under the table.
Next, Croydon Radio in, um, Croydon, where, before the broadcast we managed to get some lovely cake and a parking ticket at Matthew’s Yard. Here we are with presenter Andrew Chatterton.
Yesterday, due to the miracle of time travel, we managed both BBCs Lincolnshire and Stoke, the former with the lovely Nicola Gilroy, the latter with the not-so-lovely James Watt.
Still to come, BBCs Solent and Oxford. How exciting.
In other news, we’ve been brought some lovely presents on this tour (hint hint) – shortbread, mince pies, sloe gin, cherry vodka, and slippers! We’re awaiting a delivery of aubergine chutney, but still on the wish list are pre-shave and pro-perspirant (e.g. UnSure) for PH, and Prozac for PS.
And so, back to our day off. A luxury hotel awaits, and we’ve just been reliably informed that both of our rooms are identical. Bikinis on and a quick dip in the pool followed by a sauna? Or collapse fully-dressed on the bed?
June 2nd, 2014 / Posted in General News
Well, that was one heck of a tour! Lots of full houses, CD sales galore, and more veggie chilli than you could shake a stick at. Thanks to all of the venues, organisers and hosts who helped to make it such a success, and also to the late night service station purveyors of egg mayonnaise sandwiches. A great way to celebrate our 20th anniversary, but it’s not over yet as we have a few club and festival appearances over the summer, and our customary Christmas tour to look forward to.
Our Facebook followers will have been no doubt both delighted and educated by our regular photographic tour updates, mainly focusing on picturesque views of backstage. Fear not – we have a handful of goodies left over with which to convey the joys of life on the road.
Here’s one from the early days of the tour, in Whitchurch, Shropshire. Our green room doubled as a music classroom (the irony) – it was suggested that these pieces of equipment might in turn double as ear protectors for our audience.
Here’s the green room at Cambridge Folk Club – well, what else could you except from the ‘other place’?
It’s always a pleasure to bump into old friends when travelling around the country. Here’s our pal Hector Gilchrist warming up for a spot at the Ram Folk Club (you owe us each a drink , Hector).
Back to our ecclesiastical roots for the last night, in the vestry of St Mary’s Church, Throwleigh, Devon. We resisted the urge to raid the wardrobe and perform in fancy dress, literally. Note the bell-pull, and bottle in a basket.
And so the spring tour ended on a high note (‘O Sole Mio’ in fact) in the most beautiful of settings. Cheers one and all, and many happy returns to us.
May 21st, 2014 / Posted in Reviews
The album showcases their blend of serious musicianship and dedicated subversion. Their intricately arranged instrumentals are a roomful of strangers introducing themselves at a party and getting along fine. You don’t know what’s coming up next and you enjoy the danger… lords of misrule.
Living Tradition, March 2014
They can do things with a squeeze-box and an oboe that can break your heart.
Independent on Sunday, April 2014
Amidst the jesting and hilarity, they sit as fine an example of traditional English folk music as you’re likely to hear.
Bright Young Folk, April 2014
Harmonious live hilarity and serious musicianship, communicated with enthusiasm and wicked intelligence.
Froots, May 2014
Long may Messrs Sartin and Hutchinson continue to find a few weeks each year to get together to entertain and, in a understated way, educate us all.
Maverick, May/June 2014
One of the most intimate and entertaining live albums I’ve heard.
Songlines, June 2014
May 21st, 2014 / Posted in General News
Confession time. We lied. We didn’t have veggie chilli in Shropshire, we had a mound of home-made hoummous with lentil bake, washed down with local ale. How remiss of us to mislead you. PH finished the night off at the home of our old friend Di Whitehead, whereas PS got well and truly finished off by Benji Kirkpatrick and his wine and cheese selection. Thence to Mansfield where, as predicted, we had a return visit to a curry house, the fare of which returned to haunt us all the way home that night.
After a couple of days back home (during which PS took a group of teenagers to Pizza Hut’s happy hour deal, but only because it was a mere £6.00 per head), it was up to the wilds of Cumbria, and two nights on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite, where PH thinks he might have spotted an osprey. As if the beautiful surroundings weren’t enough, our first venue provided us with veggie chilli, and our B&B featured an all-night honesty bar which may have accounted for PH’s osprey sighting. During our northern foray, in between visits to some of the ubiquitous tea shops, and dinner in a pub at the end of Hadrian’s Wall in Bowness-on-Solway, we stopped off in Ravenglass, a former Roman settlement with a ruined bath house, and a steam railway (probably not Roman). These got Hutch well and truly excited – here are the baths:
And here is the train:
Happy memories to mull over during the 5-hour drive to London that night, to the accompaniment of cheese thins and Baby Bels. Oh, the glamour.
May 11th, 2014 / Posted in General News
Exactly a year ago to the day, we found ourselves on a Sunday tea shop tour of Bishop’s Castle (see the-final-digest-or-the-last-post) taking in the Yarborough House and Poppy House establishments in a valiant attempt to stave off the boredom and ennui of a Shropshire sabbath while between concerts. Guess what? 365 days later we find ourselves doing exactly the same thing. And with the amount of food we’re being forced to ingest it won’t just be a case of history repeating itself. All this on top of a gargantuan cooked breakfast courtesey of the kindly Dilys and Cliff, whose Whitchurch B&B is graced with many a personal touch. Here’s a picture of the hallway:
As we’ve been commuting from home for the majority of gigs on this tour (not a single Travelodge this time round, which must be a first, praise be) we’ve had less opportunity than usual to dine out, although it seems that today we are making up for it. We’ve managed couple of decent pub meals, at The Lamb in Eastbourne and The Black Bear in Whitchurch, but surely the highlight must be Tutu’s Ethiopian Table at The Global Cafe in Reading, an amazing buffet of lentil and other vegetable dishes and spiced beef, served on traditional injera pancakes, and washed down with delicious Ethiopian beer. Going to work afterwards at South Street Arts was quite a struggle; that we were seated for the concert was a blessing all round.
Tonight we have a veggie chilli, as stipulated by our contract, to look forward to (as does the audience). Tomorrow, a return visit to a curry house in Mansfield. Thence home for rest, recuperation, and a crash diet.
April 29th, 2014 / Posted in News
It’s less than a week to go before we embark on our 20th Birthday Tour, and so we’re at action stations here, organising posters and flyers, social media, travel and accommodation arrangements, oh, and learning music. Or rather, trying to remember 20 years’ worth of material. To ease ourselves into the tour we thought we’d start off with an easy, relaxed gig – so on Friday we’re appearing live on Radio 3’s InTune (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b041vjsz) – the rest of the tour will be downhill.
A couple of weekends ago we were honoured to take part in Sarah Morgan’s Memorial Concert, along with a whole array of performers from the folk world, and many of Sarah’s friends and colleagues from Hampshire and further afield. Sarah was an early supporter of Belshazzar’s, and her encouragement eventually led to her becoming our first agent – she has a lot to answer for!
We’re looking forward to seeing many of our old friends and revisiting old haunts over the next month. Oxford Folk Club and Chippenham Folk Festival gave us some of our first bookings, so it will be interesting to go back and see if we’ve got any better. We’ll be hawking copies of ‘The Whitings on the Wall’, our new album, which is receiving lovely reviews – here’s one example from the Independent on Sunday: ‘Genuinely funny… a bit of alright’ .‘A bit of alright’?! Rather forward, don’t you think?
Come and judge for yourselves, and help us to celebrate our birthday in style (i.e. buy us drinks/copies of our new album).
November 28th, 2013 / Posted in General News
We’ve been beavering away furiously for the last two days, on two significant projects that we thought you’d like to know about. Even if you don’t, here they are.
The first is our annual Christmas tour, this time starting in November so as to keep up with the retail industry. From Hull to Surrey, Somerset to Kent, we’ll be offering up our seasonal fare of fun and frolics. Already two concerts have sold out, so best get your skates on (geddit?).
The other is our forthcoming 20th anniversary album, which is its final stages of editing. With artwork by Simon Drew, we can now reveal that it will be called ‘The Whiting’s on the Wall’, and that it will be released in the spring.
Best keep this brief, as we have to go off and do our pre-tour workouts (Jane Fonda’s, to be precise) – no rest for the wicked.
P & P
November 3rd, 2013 / Posted in General News
Autumnal greetings. It may be all doom, gloom and high winds (business as usual at Camp Belshazzar) but here are a few serendipidous sparklers to illuminate the long, lonely nights; some kindling to spark the flame of your melliflous bonfire of musical beneficence; some Roman candles to stick up your etc etc.
Contrary to appearances, it’s nearly our twentieth year of working together, and to celebrate/commiserate we’ve recorded two nights’ worth of concerts at The Pound, Corsham (www.poundarts.org.uk), a lovely and welcoming venue (until we arrived). As we speak the tracks are being edited and made fit for human consumption by Andy Bell, and are due for an early spring release – so you have plenty of time in which to brace yourselves.
Having had the great Peter Bailey (peterbaileyillustrations.blogspot.com) design our last album cover we are now honoured to have pestered the one and only Simon Drew (www.simondrew.co.uk) into creating our new cover. Simon is renowned for his wry and witty illustrated puns, and no self-respecting kitchen is complete without one of his mugs or teatowels. Watch this space for more news on the picture, album launch celebrations, and, um, retailing opportunities.
We’ve also put up the dates for our annual Christmas tour. We’re looking forward to visiting venues old and new, and to not getting snowed in.
In the meantime, having just finished a stint with Faustus, Paul S will be touring with Bellowhead and editing their forthcoming songbook. Paul H has been busy with Karen Tweed; and will be visiting his hairdresser with regularity, as Jude has made a right mess of his luscious locks.
Paul & Paul
September 1st, 2013 / Posted in Album News, General News
Having had a long and refreshing break (from each other) we are now in the throes of preparing for our new album – a live recording, to be made at The Pound, Corsham, on 13th and 14th September under the watchful eyes and ears of Andy Bell. It’s a public event, so for tickets go to www.poundarts.org.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01249 701628 / 712618.
Looking further ahead, we’ve now consolidated and finalised our annual Christmas tour – book now to avoid disappointment!
Paul & Paul.
May 24th, 2013 / Posted in General News
In our first post of the tour, we presented the potentially controversial point that, despite popular opinion, and more significantly, that of our mothers, we are connoisseurs, not of dishonourable public houses and sordid saloon bars, but rather of more delicate and refined establishments. To prove this, not that we need to, we embarked on a Sunday tea-shop crawl in mid-Wales, managing three such sojourns between Presteigne and Newtown – quite a feat considering the short distance involved. In addition to tea, the first call involved CDs and books – Yarborough House (www.yarboroughhouse.com/) has a fine selection, both new and second-hand (not the tea). The next visit was over the road to the Poppy House (www.poppyhouse.co.uk/) for tea and a homely lunch, although we stayed past closing time. It’s quite an achievement to get thrown out of a tea-shop, and takes some doing. Finally, a trip to Montgomery, to our old favourite, the Castle Kitchen (www.castlekitchen.org/). By this stage we were rather tea-logged, but we managed to endure a cup or two. It might even be said, for the once and only time in our lives, that we were tea-totalled. That night, the ubiquitous veggie chilli appeared (we must change our rider), although it was delicious; after our tea-quaffing travails, we even allowed ourselves a soupçon of Bordeaux, and rhubarb syllabub dessert.
Following a few couple of days’ rest and recuperation (and much-needed exercise, for one of us at least), our next gastronomous outing of note was to our hostess’s house in Lewes. The casserole and vegetable crumble (all goodness negated by the rich topping) were presented first, so we loaded our plates eagerly. But what folly! The final savoury dish to appear was a formidable concoction of conchiglie in garlic, or rather, garlic in conchiglie. And we had no spare plate room. Never has a first helping disappeared so quickly. And never has a side-dish eclipsed a main one so thoroughly and effectively. And, furthermore, let it nevermore be said that we are unwilling to share our experiences, nay our innermost beings, our true essence, with our audience. A stuffy room and lashings of Harvey’s beer that night surely enhanced the concert experience, especially for those in the front row.
We ought to mention, by way of a more savoury, or rather less savoury postscript to this incident, that our hostess, Valmai Goodyer, baked not one but two cakes for pudding. The poor quality of the picture may be due to the miasma surrouding the dining table.
Only a sliver for us, though. Got to watch those waistlines.
The following day we turned up to play at the Fleece Inn in Bretforton (www.thefleeceinn.co.uk/), the quintessential English country pub, and the first to be owned by the National Trust. Unbeknown to us, the Fleece is at the centre of the Vale of Evesham’s asparagus-growing operations, and hosts the British Asparagus Festival and other events to celebrate the undervalued wonders of Asparagus officinalis. Propieter Nigel is a leading authority on asparagus, and as such is always ready and willing to pass on a few tips. Remarkably then, our meal, accompanied by Wyle Valley ale, consisted of asparagus spears/asparagus and butternut squash soup, followed by veggie burger with cheese and asparagus/salmon and asparagus tagliatelle.
Pleasantly sated , we were unprepared for the surprise that lay in store as we entered the mediaeval barn which served as the evening’s venue. Maureen Musson, a.k.a. ‘Mummy’, presented us with a colourful and charming picnic hamper, replete with liquid and solid refreshments, and even freezer bags to maintain an ideal temperature for the victuals contained within. Let that be a lesson to all of you. And thanks Mummy – do you want the freezer bags and basket back or can we pinch them?
Our final stop this May was in Cottingham – a gentle trip to East Yorkshire and back to round off the tour. Following an unusual yet wonderful vegetable Wellington, our hosts served us the third and final rhubarb dessert of the tour, this time in a flan incarnation. As rhubarb is out of season, we can’t help wondering if we are being served it repeatedly for non-culinary reasons . . .
We have been most fortunate on this tour, in large part due to the kindness of friends and strangers – our thanks to them all. Mealtimes are invaluable punctuation points in the day of a touring musician; a chance for relaxation, and something to look forward to whilst enduring interminable motorways and traffic jams, as well as each other. It is somewhat ironic, to say the least, that after sampling such culinary delights, this should be our last meal together:
Having (with one late-night exception) avoided the all-too-easy snares and temptations of service station fare and and maintained our dietary dignity for so long – oh, the shame of it. Still, perhaps we can appease our consciences and soothe our troubled souls with this consoling maxim – if you haven’t tasted of all of the multiplicity and variety of fruits on the tree, then you will never have knowledge of or appreciate the difference between good or evil. Now that’s something for you to chew on.
May 12th, 2013 / Posted in General News
As promised, here’s the first of our food guides, hastily written before we stop off and debauch ourselves at Little Chef. Friday night’s food was provided by the cafe upstairs at our lovely venue. Ruskin Mill is, along with a significant number of establishments, run by a charitable educational trust (www.rmt.org) – at the Mill, young people with autism and learning difficulties learn practical skills, and the cafe plays its part in that. We, along with one of our mummies, were given a hefty veggie chilli with intrepid side salads. Indeed most of the organic menu is of a vegetarian and healthy leaning. Except the cakes, which delicious as they looked, were forbidden as we are both on diets. It’s worth noting that the cafe isn’t licensed (not that that stopped us).
The folllowing night we dined at Shardana in Guildford (www.shardanarestaurant.com), accompanied by our personal GP. Both traditional and modern (like us), trendy yet family-friendly (unlike us), it serves Italian cuisine with a Sardinian twist, in an attempt to pack them in. And very large glasses of wine, so we’re struggling to remember what we had. Certainly garlic bread – that’s stayed with us, as it did during the concert that night. PS’s parpadelle porcini had a delicate hint of truffle, but lacked sherry, whilst PS’s tagliatelli al bue certainly went on a while. Altogether a pleasant, if hazy experience.
Last night featured Norwich’s Spice Paradise (www.spiceparadise.co.uk). On the surface, it was an amalgam of all that is dodgy about such establishments. Unprepossessing on the outside, the inside plumbs 1970s-style depths, with salmon-pink partitions, suspiciously-stained ceiling tiles, gaudy menus and Gallic facilities (even before we arrived). However, we weren’t there to admire the decor, or even the presentation of the food, which could be described as homely, especially if you’ve seen PS’s cooking. Once we had finished prevaricating and chosen from the selection of North and South Indian dishes, we were in for a gustatory treat. Just goes to show, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor a restaurant by its tablecloths.
Next, a special mention to Gill Munday, who responded to our pleas in our previous post and presented us with a bottle of homemade damson or sloe liqueur – she couldn’t remember which (we wonder why) – at Norwich Folk Club. We can now confirm it was a wonderfully syrupy damson conconction. The gift was made all the more sweet by the knowledge that it was originally intended for Spiers and Boden, but we were delighted to inform Gill that neither of them drink.
Yesterday’s lunch was taken at Smith’s at No. 4 in Oundle (http://www.facebook.com/smithsatno4cafebar). The food didn’t quite live up to the sophisticated prices, nor match the quality of the all-female service, but it was a pleasant spot in which to break up our Norfolk to Wales marathon.
Supper was cooked by our old friend and colleague John Hymas. Not the threatened veggie chilli (thank goodness) but frittatta accompanied by homegrown purple-sprouting broccolli presented in an Ottolenghi-inspired tahini-based dressing. We allowed ourselves dessert – all the benefits of a healthy dose of homegrown rhubarb were negated by dollops of cream, then washed down with large amounts of ‘Up and Down’ and ‘Spitfire’ in the Duke’s Arms. Look out for John’s pop-up restaurants in Presteigne, and check out his music at http://johnhymas.com/.
Off to Newtown today, and looking forward to more of you taking a lead from Gill Munday’s example. Bon appetit.
April 27th, 2013 / Posted in General News
Preparations are well under way for our annual May tour, and alongside bouts of Jane Fonda’s Workout we are adhering religiously to a strict and fastidious diet. In fact, and perhaps despite appearances and rumours, we are a healthy-living and refined duo, and like nothing more whilst on tour together than to compare and swap recipes, and sample the wholesome and vigour-inducing delights of health-food shops and delicatessens. Not for us the hurly-burly of the public house, or the rough-and-tumble of fried chicken salons. We are never more at home than whilst sipping afternoon tea in some refined provincial tea house or hearty farm shop cafeteria (preferably stimulating our intellects with a crossword – broadsheet of course), or perambulating among the wondrous cornucopia of wares and delights of an al fresco market setting.
During the following month, we will be posting up our dining and purchasing recommendations as and when we find suitable establishments on our travels, for your perusal and delectation. We would welcome any suggestions you might proffer, in order to ease our wearisome passage and brighten our otherwise tedious and joyless itinerary. Purveyors and provenders – should you wish to donate edibles and consumables to our worthy and edifying cause, you will recieve not only our eternal gratitude but perhaps also some token of our indebtedness (in CD format). We hereby throw down the gauntlet, and challenge you to disprove the adage, and demonstrate by your selflessness and generosity that there is indeed such a thing as a free lunch.
November 29th, 2012 / Posted in Reviews
When Paul Sartin finishes his current tour with Bellowhead, he’ll be back on the road playing small clubs with Paul Hutchinson. The duo have worked together as Belshazzar’s Feast for nearly 20 years, and developed a style that mixes their celebrated sense of humour with some very fine musicianship. This is a Christmas-themed album, but that shouldn’t put you off. More than half of the tracks are instrumentals, with Sartin’s oboe, cor anglais and violin matched against Hutchinson’s accordion on elegant, stately tunes scuh as Coventry Tango or the sturdy, hypnotic Mr Marsden’s Maggot. They make the traditional songs their own, too, with Sartin’s sturdy vocal work joined by choral backing on the elegant Sussex Carol and The Shepherd’s Song, an 18th-century Gloucestershire story of shepherds in a pub. There’s also a comedy treatment of Silent Night – dedicated to John Cage.
Robin Denselow / The Guardian, 15 November (3stars / 5)
Christmas albums come in all sorts of musical shapes and sizes: this one is not exclusively seasonal! Perhaps that’s part of this duo’s continuing humorous take on traditional music. Keeping to the theme, though, there is the much-loved ‘Sussex Carol’ (noted by Ralph Vaughan Williams from Mrs Verrall) – with the Andover Museum Loft Singers on chorus – and ‘Joseph and Mary’ (again, noted by RVW, with Ella Leather, in Hereford – shire). ‘Coventry Tango’ takes ‘The Coventry Carol’ tune as its starting point! And there’s the bonus track – ‘Silent Night’ – dedicated to John Cage: the humour pops up everywhere, although the track only lasts 2 minutes 43 seconds, not 4 minutes 33 seconds, which would have completed the joke!
It is in the instrumental tracks that the musical expertise of these two Pauls really shines. The CD notes (as hilarious as their spoken introductions at concerts and musical jokes) explain that ‘Parson’s Farewell’ here is their third recording of the tune: another cleverly arranged version of this Playford favourite. There is more from The Dancing Master in ‘Playford’s Christmas Ball’: ‘Nonsuch’ (with a chorus of the Russian song ‘Kalinka’) and ‘Jamaica’ (with an added phrase from Harry Belafonte’s ‘The Banana Boat Song’). As with the other tracks, the subtlety of the musical jokes and the excellent musicianship mean that there is something new to hear every time you listen to the CD.
The CD includes two of Paul Hutchinson’s excellent compositions: ‘Bumpers’ and ‘Mr Marsden’s Maggot’, though he (and perhaps Paul Sartin as well) could surely claim ownership of the two arrangements of ‘Green Sleeves’. Paul’s tune, ‘Will’s Jig’ follows ‘The Shepherd’s Song’. Like their last seasonal offering (Frost Bites in 2009), Stocking Fillers will surely, and deservedly, have a ready sale on their annual Christmas concert tour and, indeed, throughout the year.
Derek Schofield / EDS Winter 2012