Kim Lowings and The Greenwood: 'Wild & Wicked Youth' Album Review

Nowadays in the folk world it is a very common thing to be told that X band ‘perform their songs with a contemporary twist’, But Kim Lowings and The Greenwood actually do. They sometimes take traditional formats but make them feel fresh, new and completely make them their own. They are: Dave Sutherland (Double Bass), Andrew ‘Jarv’ Lowings (Guitar, Bouzouki, Bodhran), Kim Lowings (Vocals, Appalachian Dulcimer, Piano), and Tim Rogers (Cajon). Wild & Wicked Youth is their third album: it’s front cover features a brilliant photo of Kim with horns (seriously, it’s a really cool photo).

A lot of this album has more of a poppy sound and there is huge progression here especially since 2015.. The physical CD includes gorgeous photos of Kim who seems to have become part of the forest. However, there is quite a lack of information on each song inside.

The first song of the album, "In Spirit", aptly begins with the words “I start from the beginning”. It has a beautifully plucked intro and a slow and emotional entrance. It then suddenly leaps into a more lively, country sound. The deep emotion of the introduction would have been great if it lasted through the whole song, but the upbeat sound is a good opener to the album. It has a very catchy chorus and definitely feels more poppy than their older stuff: maybe helped by the ‘nananana’’s (we all love a good ‘nanana’ now and then!).

"Oyster Girl" has a punchy opening. The song has traditional lyrics with a modern spin, including a playful guitar riff. The content of the song has a very traditional call and answer structure. "Farewell My Love So Dear" has a darker, american country sound at the beginning. And then comes the male chorus. What a sound! It’s emphatic and effective. It is complimented by the steady build of this song, with the dark undertones given by the cello. About one minute in it jumps to something slightly jazzy, but it still holds it’s darkness with the drumming pattern in the background. Very much departing from folk tradition now, despite the traditional lyrics, it is quite nice that it isn’t so upbeat and is quite experimental; it gives the album some variation.

"The Tortoise and the Hare" has a wonderful message full of powerful inner strength. Alongside a lovely harmony, the lyrics compare two people to the story of the tortoise and the hare: “I’m like the tortoise, and you’re like the hare; you’re quick off the blocks while I tread with care”. It’s a brilliant metaphor, especially as we know the famous outcome of this story. The words that give the song its inner strength are “See you at the finish line” - what an emphatic phrase!

Next up comes the gem of the album "Firestone" which is downright beautiful. Kim’s voice is so smooth and easy to listen to. The song is simple with just piano and voice, and the feeling of tension building is great. While the band like to play around with traditional lyrics and their melodies, they have stuck to the famous melody of "Bold Riley" and in true Kim Lowings and The Greenwood fashion, have turned it into something entirely their own.

Now, what is a folk album without a bit of murder? "Oh the Wind and Rain" tells a tale that most folkies will have heard before, however this version includes a further tale which hasn’t been heard until now. The song tells of two sisters who loved the same man. One sister pushes her sister into the wild water and watches her drown, while singing “Oh the Wind and Rain”. Only a vocalist such as Kim can pull off happily singing words like “dead on the water like a golden swan”, and cheerily tell the story of the floating dead corpse. The corpse is then used to make a fiddle - bones for the pegs, hair for the bow, a fiddle from the breast bone - making a fiddle that can only play the one song sang as the sister had drowned. Oh, folk music…

"Away Ye Merry Lassies" is a fun irish song written by Georje Holper. Of all the ‘nights out’ topics in folk songs, you rarely come across a song about witches going out to “ride the wind” on the “girls’ night out!” This is very simply a song about witches having fun! The chorus is catchy and the words will get stuck in your head: “It’s the girls’ night out, away ye merry lassies, get your brooms, get em out, we’ll ride the winds tonight!”

"The Newry Highwayman" has a Robin Hood tale to it: a highwayman who steals from the lords and ladies to keep his poor wife happy. With no pretense about his pass time, he cries: “I carry their gold to my heart’s delight”. My face lit up when I heard the words “He was a wild and wicked youth” - the title of the album! Last track on the album "Fly Away" is another sweet song with a piano, though not so melancholic. The song commences with an emphatic choral ending.

Overall, the album is full of fun. It’s lighthearted, with sweet and happy melodies. It’s a joy to listen to and will have you singing along in no time!