A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by: Allen Price
If you can imagine an album conceived with the satirical wit of Monty Python, the musical backing of Fairport Convention alumni and a band named for a deceased hound, it would most assuredly come out as "Gnus and Roses," by the Mrs. Ackroyd Band. The Mrs. Ackroyd Band, based in Manchester, England, consists of a core of Les Barker, Lesley Davies, Chris Harvey and Alison Younger. Named for Mrs. Ackroyd, a now-departed mongrel known for hanging around Manchester folk clubs, the band's membership ebbs and flows with other names familiar to fans of English folk music over the years. Joining in on the album as part of the "Very Big Mrs. Ackroyd Band" are June Tabor, Martin Carthy, Eliza Carthy, Norma Waterson, Martin Allcock and Nick Fairclough. Tabor's vocal talents are showcased on "The January June."
Les Barker is chief poet, founder and the center of the group. A prolific poet, Barker has authored over 50 books since he quit his accountant's job in 1975. The songs found on this album are a collection of musical parodies drawing from a variety of sources from traditional ("Johnny We Hardly Knew You") to pop ("Leader of the Pack") to the blues ("Born Under a Bad Sign"). Barker's lyrics are cleverly crafted to fit the tone and tenor of each original tune, resulting in a hilarious collection of songs. His satirical targets range from Arnold Schwarzenengger to hedge hogs. The lyrics are enhanced through the counterpoint of an understated instrumentation and stunningly clear vocal harmonies.
It is safe to say that this would be a unique addition to one's music collection, and one that can provide for many hours of enjoyment, either for its wit or its musical merits.
List of songs: