Hadrian’s Union – Aural Borderalis

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Damian Liptrot | Stars: 3/5

Strange place Cumbria.  Not quite Scotland and its shared Caledonian identity, yet too far from England’s cultural epicentres to be dragged into any passing mode du jour.  A place then where they do things their own way, at least if Hadrian’s Union are anything to go by.  Yes, they do make their own entertainment and now they have been kind enough to share it with the rest of us.  Aural Borderalis is an album of only 12 tracks but a 1,000 ideas – sometimes apparently even in one song.   Starting with a track that fuses the best of 70’s rock with the finest of folk sensibilities, they then proceed through the likes of Gogol Bordello with extra Klezmer, a little Genesis married to a growing Moody Blues lushness – and that’s just the music – which frequently offers delightful, inventive and evocative flourishes throughout, embellishing the songs with further touches of class.  Not surprising given the line-up that has been added to the original core of the band, with Folk Award winners, ex-Whapweaselers and the like.  Lyrically, there are themes of social concern, anger, regret and isolation, as well as deep love, longing and loss.  Perhaps all folk favourites one way or another but in terms of both words and delivery, lyricist, singer and HU founder Stew Simpson can be heard to channel his inner Strummer, with nods to Morrissey as well as those princes of the North East folk scene – Lindisfarne, no less.  Following on from this, it is Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter time and then a gentle instrumental before it starts all over again.  Right in the middle of this festival of eclecticism is the least typical track of all, which perversely sums up HU in the most effective manner.  English Eccentrics will call to mind The Bonzos, Stackridge and even the lyrical whimsy of Ray Davies at his Kinkiest.  It is, in effect, their “Intro and Outro”, telling all of their raison d’etre and their ties that bind.  Overall, it’s a strange beast of an album but a lovable one, bounding around with abandon at times, then curling around you in front of a warm fire.  Listen and wonder!