Down on Deptford Broadway, the second full length from London’s Skinny Lister, hits hard with a perfect blend of catchy, rowdy pub sing-a-longs and beautiful folk ballads. Sometimes with both styles featured on the same track. Think rich folk and the sea chantey sounds of The Pogues mixed with the modern day melodic appeal of say, The Lumineers. These guys have got it all.
This album makes me want to gather up all of my friends and parade (instruments in hand) busking down Oxford Street in London’s West End as I make my way to a cheerful pub to meet even more friends for sing songs and sing-alongs. Amid the album’s irresistible jubilation, there’s slower folk numbers that make me want to button up my pea coat and take a pensively peaceful walk along The Thames to reflect on love lost and ponder the unknown road ahead.
Skinny Lister prides themselves on taking the traditional folk music and stamping it with their own memorable mark by sprinkling in influences of acoustic punk and British power-pop. They are a living dichotomy, both a tirelessly hardworking band and a good-time, carefree folk group you want to drink, dance and sing along with. Maybe nothing epitomizes this bravado more than their live performances where they’ve been known to pass around their trademark flagon to the crowd for swigging.
The album opens on the high tides with the song “Raise a Wreck”, the type of ditty you swing your mug of ale to as lead singer Daniel Heptinstall belts away. As the foot stomping, hand clapping beat of the number two track, “Trouble on Oxford Street,” kicks in, you begin to see what the band is all about. Rarely is an album single this catchy and yet versatile enough that you could picture it playing on the radio, in bars, or even in a TV commercial. One listen to this rowdy number and I’m back walking down Oxford street taking in the sights and sounds.
“What can I say?” is a personal favorite that draws you in with a solemnly beautiful melody that anyone would enjoy listening to while missing a loved one. This fits in with the albums few mellow standouts that feature the other lead vocalist, Lorna Thomas, such as “Bonny Away” and the heartbreaking album closer “The Dreich.”
“Six Whiskies” is like a Pogues song that was never written. Picture yourself stumbling through a crowded pub with everyone chanting the irresistible melody during last call. “This is War” is another one that could be an album single, and maybe best sums up the band’s different styles all in one number. It begins with a foot stomping raucous, similar to the Pogues as well, but suddenly transitions to an anthemic football club themed chorus as the male-female harmonies defiantly belt out “This is War!”
Skinny Lister clearly pays homage to their folk history and songs of the sea, but their ubiquitous musicianship transforms this rich melodic tradition into some modern living, breathing Kraken. They create an atmosphere where you can’t help but sing along, dance, and party. Honoring the deep musical heritage of traditional British folk while stirring in their own modern twist, they strike a balance in their music whereby it equally encourages ponderous introspection as much as drunken rowdy celebration. Skinny Lister has all of the elements that make good music turn great.