Frank Burkitt Band – Raconteur

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

Originally from Edinburgh, Frank and partner Kara Filbey swapped late night music and Scottish pubs for North Island New Zealand in 2014. The addition of James Geluk on Double Bass, Cameron Burrell on Mandolin and Banjo and a different perspective on Americana, Roots music, Jazz, Country and all points in between led to the Frank Burkitt Band. With a band name that suggests a polyester suited covers band jazzing up rock covers in a smoky Northern working man’s club circa 1972 and a cover that recalls hand-tooled leather wine list or menu this album intrigues from the first encounter. Early erroneous impressions are instantly dispelled, by the passionate, heartfelt and finely crafted music within. “Work So Hard” mixes up a plaintive guitar straight off Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”, a testifying Hammond organ and some tight tasty vocals and you have soulful music that confounds to the end. The first track is punctuated by a flute break and ethereal vocals that could be lifted clean out of Traffic’s “John Barleycorn” period. Till it body swerves bucolic whimsy to end up in Muscle Shoals. Memphis Soul territory. “Simple” is a taut funky number with a punchy double bass rhythm. The band’s vocal harmonies are tight, spot on and a delight. Frank Burkitt’s bluesy lead vocal is strangely captivating while the band wraps him in layers of blue grass, blues and a Cello arrangement. What sounds in a words and paper review like a musical ingredients list, in the ears, just cooks. “Raconteur”, the track, is just divine. A wry reflection on being the life and soul of the party. A example of a tender reflective song growing out of a, situation that was quite possibly anything but. Sonically its Van Morrison Hymns to the Silence or Veedon Fleece, or Blue Rose Code at their soulful best. Frank’s and Kara’s vocal are passionate and spot on, meshed together. The improbably named Baron Oscar Laven lays down an ambient ECM trumpet that is to die for. “Breathe Slow” builds a beautiful atmosphere around glorious vocal harmonies, Mandolin and a rich Cello. “Paint the Town” lifts the reflective mood with a punchy feel good song that has the swagger of Imelda May and the Circus Brass band ragged spit and polish of Bellowhead. Music you can chuck yourself around to. “Gypsy Barber” blends the smooth drifting opium haze of Leon Redbone’s slurred Parisian Café Jazz with a Bluegrass shuffle. Again Baron swoops and soars on the clarinet. “Albert Woodfox” is a surreal tale in a folk song with the band’s characteristic lush vocals and arrangement. “Walkin Right” is a glorious crooned Country song. The evocative Jazzy Double Bass line nods to “Walkin” the 1954 Miles Davis tune and Frank’s vocal is superb. A Capella song “My Heart Waits” is a stunning showcase for three voices and a late reveal of yet another side to this multifaceted surprising band. The cover, with its enigmatic monogram or crest, suggests an expensive treat or a pair of finely tooled duelling pistols. What is does is only hint, tantalisingly, at the rich variety of feel good music within. Country, Folk, Jazz, 70s bucolic Folk Rock and an array of treats for the ears waits for the listener intrigued by the band and this album.