Consider this the reviews equivalent of watching a film then reading the book, I guess (note to self – don’t mix the two, you’ll end up spoiling the big twist in Slow Horses). I am writing this the night after seeing The Levellers play their acoustic tour, which means I’ve perhaps a different perspective on “Together All The Way” than I might have had, if I’d written this last week.

What that show proved, though, was that the best songs always translate, and also that if The Levellers had chosen to go down a more conventional folk route they’d have been brilliant at that too.

“…..Way” amounts to the follow up to “We The Collective” – their 2018 acoustic album which bothered the top twenty. I suspect much of the interest will centre on the three new songs. The first of which “Down By The River ‘O’” was released as a single before Christmas, and the cover of a track by their long-time collaborator Rev. Hammer is perfect – both for the band and in its rendition. Written about the 1968 flood in Hammer’s home town of Buntingford, if ever there was a song made for a ceilidh, it’s this. Glorious, rabble rousing, yet rooted in its community. As metaphors go….

The other pair of fresh cuts are true highlights. The beautiful “Man O’ War” written by newest member Dan Donnelly, puts us straight into the dread of a soldier about to go to war. Reminiscent of Billy Bragg’s late period work, there’s a warmth, a deftness and a skill here.

Best of all the new ones, though, is “Sitting In The Social”. Playing it in Birmingham, Mark Chadwick had joked that after it had finished we “were off to the Town Hall with pitchforks and burning torches” and certainly, it’s the type of incendiary stuff that the Levellers have always excelled at.

There’s a few of them here. “Battle Of The Beanfield” has always been a personal favourite and with the addition of the wonderful cello here from Hannah Moule from the Moulettes gives it an added urgency, an even more ominous tinge.

Another from the classic “Levelling The Land” – “Sell Out” – is so on point for 2023. These are its opening lines: The year was 1991, it seems that freedom is dead and gone/The power of the rich is held by few/Keep the young paralysed, educated by your lies.” That was 32 years ago, lest you need reminding. That was before the most right wing government in the history of this country began its planned destruction of the welfare state and the NHS to make their mates with hedge funds richer. There are those who think bands should “stay in their lane” and not discuss issues. Those people are wrong. And those words underline why it matters, why the need to keep writing about things that matter is always going to be there. Its not about Tories v Labour anymore, Starmer has seen to that. Its about us against them. They will sell you down the river.

Right back at the start of the album is another from “….Land”. “The Game” has got a windswept gravitas in this form. Sean Lakeman produces the album, and the way this is done, you could imagine it on one of his brother Seth’s records. Al Scott mixes, and he knows this work better than anyone. it shows.

“The Cholera Well” like it did when it was played live just sounds raw and primal, the title track sounds a note of solidarity, and it shows the versatility and skill of the band – never lose sight of its chorus though: there’s plenty of money for us all. “Wake The World” is from the other side of the coin, I guess, there’s a despair at the system, but here and on “Wheels” there is such an exquisite use of harmony that the beauty of the music envelopes you anyway.

And there’s a comfort in this, a comfort that bands like The Levellers exist and make this music, music that is not superficial. There’s a line on “Wheels” that says “just don’t fake life”. “Together All The Way” rather explains that they’ve never done that, and they never will. Even if “they” are laughing at you and me, still. This is the sound of defiance. Like folk always was, it’s the music of the people.

Rating 9/10

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