The second album by the JSD Band was released in 1972 with declamatory sleeve notes by John Peel (the hippest man alive at the time). It included this account of a typical gig by this effervescent young band: “In a dark corner I danced with as much abandon as I ever allow myself and, for the umpteenth time blessed bands like the Faces and Lindisfarne who have brought joy and rowdiness back to our music.” He also went on to mention that “…no-one who goes on to buy this LP is ever going to flog it again…” How right he was.
The comparison with the Faces is apt, as this album and their accompanying stage act had that boozy raucousness that made the Faces far more than a backing band for Rod Stewart. Imagine The Faces playing folk music a la “Full House” era Fairport Convention and singing in an impenetrable Scots accent and you should have a good idea of the rawness and vitality of this band at its best.
The original line-up included Chuck Fleming on violin, however on this album he was replaced by Lindsay Scott, who has a rawer sound, giving the edge over other JSD Band recordings (think Swarbrick replacing Ric Sanders in Fairport, in a historical reverse. Apart from the aforementioned Scott, who also contributed vocals, the other musicians on this outing were Jim Divers (bass); Sean O’Rourke (mouth harp, banjo, vocals, piccolo, flute, guitars); Des Coffield (guitars, vocals, mandolin, tenor banjo) — these three contributing their first initials to the name of the band – and Colin Finn (drums, percussion and sheer energy.)
The band turned professional after winning a recording contract (with EMI) as a prize in the “Scottish Folk Group Championships” in 1970. Their first recording was “In The Country Of The Blind” and this attracted a moderate following amongst the Scottish folk scene alongside the likes of Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty. However, this paled in comparison with the might of this eponymous release.
Luckily, over thirty years later, this album is still available, enhanced by extra tracks. It’s still a joyous record, the energy and enthusiasm singing out from the first note. The opening track “Open Road” (penned by the “S” in JSD Band, Sean O’Rourke) is a banjo-driven sing-along which swings and makes a good calling-on song.
This is followed by an extraordinarily energetic a capella intro to the prolific songwriting of Trad. Arr. on an exceptional “As I Roved Out.” The same composer is responsible for the poignant “Betsy” and the utterly bereft final verses of “Honey Babe.”
The excellent “Johnny O’Braidislea” is driven along by the relentless Colin Finn’s percussive strengths and has a truly memorable melody line provided by Sean O’Rourke’s sinuous flute — as good as anything Ian Anderson did with Jethro Tull. This is followed by a cover of Woody Guthrie and Lee Hays’ “Going Down The Road” that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Bruce Springsteen’s recent Pete Seeger tribute “We Shall Overcome.”
The frenetic instrumentals “Barney Brallaghan” and “Irish Girl” could make a corpse dance. Every track is a joy, ending in that bluegrass classic “Groundhog.” In an age where additional tracks are added simply to take up space, it might have been better to think “less is more.”
The CD features two versions of “Sarah Jane,” one from the first JSD Band album In The Country of The Blind. The second version is from their third (Travelling Days) which featured the track “Fishing Blues” (also included here.) A final additional track, “Paddy Stacks,” adds nothing to the perfectly formed 70’s folk – rock classic that was JSD Band.
(Cube Records, 1972)