Don’t believe a word of it – the party is far from over.
By their own admission, Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra have been “gleefully trampling over genre boundaries” for over a decade now. They have toured the British Isles and Europe, playing everywhere from Glastonbury & Cambridge Folk Festivals to village halls, barns and everything in between. They have played support tours with big-name Americana acts, including Pokey LaFarge, The Dead South and Sierra Ferrell and enjoy extensive radio play. The Party’s Over is their fifth studio album, and what a belter it is.
The line-up; Rob Heron (vocals/electric guitar/acoustic guitar), Tom Cronin (mandolin/harmonica/baritone guitar), Colin Nicholson (accordian/organ/piano/whistle), Ted Harbot (double bass/electric bass/baritone guitar) and Paul Archibald (drums/washboard) are joined by guests Ben Powling (tenor & baritone saxophone), Ruth Lyon (fiddle/vocals), Pete Tanton (trumpet), Christopher Kurji-Smith (trombone), Keith Robinson (clarinet) and Neil Hopper (sousaphone).
Every song is written by Heron, except ‘Trouble Is‘ (Paul Weber), and every word, note & nuance invokes a response, whether humour, sadness, frivolity or reflection. The artistry and expertise of the lyricists, vocalists and musicians are exceptional. And, behind the façade of what can seem flighty or foolish on the surface, there is a real depth of feeling, experience, wisdom and truth. All of this beautifully packaged into an emotional roller coaster of real-life stories.
Opening with ‘Go Home (The Party’s Over)‘, the collection gets off to a spirited start with retro themes and the after-effects of that Friday night feeling. ‘She Hypnotised Me‘ leads with the chorus and is a swinging, party-style, brass-fueled tale of the effects of falling in love. The lyrics are hilariously apt “She changed my disposition, ’cause I never really liked romance, She hypnotised me, hit me right between the eyes…”
‘My Salad Days‘, again, is a joyous depiction of an otherwise potentially sad event. That of being dumped. “My salad days were ended, when she no longer depended on my love. Oh, my salad days are through. Now I just eat pork and beans… I never do eat my greens, I prefer to smoke & drink instead” The masterful yodelling adding to the fun lyrics. However, if the lyrical content does strike a sad note in this one, take heart because you won’t be able to sit still to ‘Snip Snap Snout‘. Next, though, the inspired cover of Weber’s ‘Trouble Is‘, is a profoundly moving, sensitively played tale of breaking up & the difficulty of getting over it. This beautiful portrayal of such a well-worn path will make you weep.
Hopefully not for long though as ‘The Horse That You Rode In On‘ gallops in like a freight train of a ditty. Again, it is about breaking up, but this time more cruel and bitter with creative analogies set to a pounding sound full of western-style motifs & flourishes. The theme of relationship woes continues with ‘Dilly Dally Sally‘ then there is the bright and breezy ‘Remind Me Tomorrow‘. Lots of fabulous brass in this one which is either about being carefree & always putting off or, maybe, depression. ‘Right to Roam‘ is a lovely ode to home which could quite readily be adopted by any, or all, of our home nations. ‘A Call to Mothers’ Arms‘ is poignant and pacey. This western-style story of brothers going “to fight another man’s war” returning changed people with PTSD, if they returned at all, and declares “we still don’t know what we’re fighting for“. That unbearable feeling of war held by so many. Last but not least is ‘The Doctor Told Me‘. Everything is thrown at this one. A brilliantly blended orchestral, carefree account of healthy living, or not, as this case may be. “The doctor told me if I have another drink, I’ll die“. Strong stuff that the chorus puts right back in its box with the lines “When I’m in Heaven, with the angels, Hallelujah, Amen. I can drink whatever I want, ’cause it ain’t gonna kill me again“.
Having caught the band at the Northern Kin Festival earlier this year, it was clear that the oft-harrowing characterisations are tempered by the relevant poignancy of their musical and artistic portrayal, making it impossible to be offended. Instead, this album of songs is honest and enlightening and gets right to the crux of everyday experiences. Not only that, the quality of the arrangements and production make it all in all an astounding record.