Wise Owls

George Thomas and the Owls – Shooting Cabin Songs (Red Deer Club)
February 11th, 2008

Good old Red Deer Club, Dunk and co are back again with some boundary-stretching folk goodness, this time in the form of George Thomas and the Owls. It may be no surprise to you that this writer would jump at the chance to review a band with a woodland creature in the name, but these Owls are familiar too, as they can also be found penning and playing tunes as Dr Butler’s Hatstand Medicine Band.

The first thing to strike you about Shooting Cabin Songs is how wintry it is. Although music often evokes seasons, George Thomas succeeds in a stronger way than most; it is as though you can hear the frost forming as soft, hushed vocals float atop the crackling of an eight-track. On A Starry Night has a sombre, pre-dawn feel to it, The Art of Chainsaw Maintenance is more country influenced, with harmonica and what appears to be the introduction of Andrew ‘Blind Boy’ Butler’s washboard.

The Nine Gardens of Aberglasny is the closest Thomas comes to pure traditional folk, and whilst it is – like the rest of the album – wholly and quite devastatingly beautiful, it is the tracks which stray further that stay with you. Closer Falling Snow is a case in point with its slightly tortured vocals which recall a pastoral Jonathon Donahue and carefully understated guitars. Quite simply, Shooting Cabin Songs has to be one of the most evocative albums of recent years, a quiet triumph.

words: Hannah Bayfield