Skinny Lister – Forge & Flagon LP

The Basics
A five – piece folk group based in London, but who hail from all over England, Skinny Lister have been dubbed the “hardest working band in Britain” after winning a PRS award for the ‘Most Performances at UK Festivals 2011’. They take their name form the Lister family, pioneers in the use of anaesthetic, but hopefully their debut album won’t have an effect reminiscent of the other Listers’ exploits.
The Verdict
I must admit, I’ve always been sceptical about folk music; all that facial hair and dancing with flagons of ale just doesn’t appeal. Maybe I’m just miserable, or jealous due to my own follicular impotence, but the tales of “raising a glass to England” (‘If the Gaff don’t let us Down’) and tipsy “too rye ayes” (‘John Kanaka’) just irritate rather than impress.
But, hang on, what’s this? ‘Rollin’ Over’ has a certain, twee charm and if you ignore the sea-shanty horror of ‘Trawlerman’, the upward trajectory continues. ‘Peregrine Fly’, a slow number with quivering fragility, introduces Lorna Thomas as by far the best vocalist in the group. ‘Forty Pound Wedding’ means I’ve finally found a folksy knees-up that’s more than bearable and ‘Plough and Orion’ is a work of intricate beauty wherein Dan Heptinstall and the previously mentioned Thomas’ voices melt together like the liquid they’re turning your heart into.

The trick is repeated on album closer – and highlight – ‘Colours’, which takes you gently by the hand to a dreamy, meadow landscape before increasing the tempo and your heart rate, a crescendo that represents a blissful release.     
‘Forge and Flagon’ represents, for me, the best and worst of folk as a genre, but whether you want to stomp along to a booze and beer tinged sing-a-long or watch the tears gather at the bottom of your empty glass*, there’s enough here to suggest we won’t be asking Skinny Lister to ‘folk off’ anytime soon.
*Yep, I’m a right laugh on a Saturday night me.
Words by Lewis Parker.
Forge and Flagon is released on June 11th.

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