The second song on “Trouble” is called “Chambers”. At its heart is a hook that goes: “The Chambers of hell they are full of lost souls, trying to find their way”. To understand this collaboration, then I’d suggest you look no further than that.

Let’s get straight to the point. The Balladmongrels should be the most highly anticipated record of 2023. In a parallel universe it is. And that parallel universe happens to be this website.

I’ll recap, briefly for those who haven’t read me saying this on the 100 times I’ve written it, but back in 1989 I found a cassette called “The Graveyard Of Empty Bottles”. It remains one of my all-time favourite records and probably started my lifelong love of folk music.

The band behind it was Dogs D’Amour. Their singer Tyla J. Pallas is one of the main men here.

The other, Matty James Cassidy, released an album called “Old Souls” that I reviewed in 2020 and said it was full of “the feeling that it walks on the edge, could fall apart at any moment, but never does. That to me, is what rock n roll should always be”. That’s what “Trouble” is, but more than that, the 2020 thing is important.

It was in the lockdowns, the second one – which if I recall was in the December of that year and had all the filth at number 10 partying while we sat in our houses? – that saw a meeting of minds. Two like-minded souls bound by a rock n roll. Or as Tyla puts it, “I loved the idea of Matty taking one of my ballads and giving it some bollocks”. And that’s it. This is the most rock n roll release of 2023

“Ballad Of The Knucklemen”, proves it. A celebration of the life of a road dog. “Travel the road, looking for adventure” it goes, one for the most hardcore of troubadours if ever there was.

The aforementioned “Chambers” is quintessential Tyla. That he makes it catchy, is typical of his genius.

“Trouble” itself, a duet as far removed from “Islands in the Stream” as can be (my go-to duet reference, right there). No doubt that these two could find the trouble anywhere if they wanted, mind you.

“How The Beautiful Fall” is everything you wanted from this, that cracked voice, that poetry, the harmony when Cassidy sings.
And the way they find a fresh angle. What about “Swinging Jack” a folk lament about a gay soldier, as an example of the originality here, is there one better? Or there’s “Highwayman Blues”. Simple pure (that is to say filthy) rock n roll. And this is a proper band too. Skilled, and loud, despite the name, drummer Simon Hanson is superb throughout but especially on “Warship”. Is it an attack on populism? “For those of you who worship at the altar of one man’s ego, we forgive you”, it says. Certainly, it’s angry, then they follow it up with a punky attack on the rich and powerful in “Evil Under The Moon”. Arguably the best thing here.

But there’s a message contained in the collection that even in the post-truth era there’s good in the world. “Tall Ships” is a lament on such an idea and the sense of camaraderie, brotherhood and friendship is shot through this like a spine. The harmonica is like that “Graveyard Of Empty Bottles” record that I loved since childhood.

It all finishes with “Good Ol’ Daze’” a Stones-esque ramblin’ rocker and there’s a line in it that sums all this up with as much adroitness as the one I used in the opening. “We got our whole lives left to lead, however long that may be” it says and the inference is clear. They’re against us, the world is against us, but we’ve got each other and the music to get us through.

If we didn’t, we’d be in “Trouble” after all. Welcome to an album that for some of us was beyond exciting. For the rest of you, if you love poetry that beats with a rock n roll heart, this is one of the albums of the year.

Rating 9.5/10

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