The Demon Barbers

RootsWorld: Home Page Link RootsWorld: Home Page Link

The Demon Barbers
Disco at the Tavern
Artist release (

It is no secret that The Demon Barbers have been interested in the dance element of English folk music. In the past, they have launched programs such as "Time Gentlemen Please" and the "Lock In Dance Show," which have set traditional English clog and rapper dancing aside hip hop dance and break dancing. The results have been surprising, highlighting similarities between disparate styles which are grounded in expression and passion. And how often has dance been captured on an English folk release, apart from the classic Morris On and other Albion Band experiments with morris dancing? Apart from the festival stage, dancing is usually implied on a band's release – a secondary focus, even though music and dance are a crucial combination as productions of the body.

"Ranzo" (excerpt)

So it is that on Disco at the Tavern, singer, guitar, and concertina player Damien Barber and his compatriots go 'all in' with a new show that fearlessly combines mostly English folk with influences from a myriad of dance music styles. Initially, the “Intro/Prince of Cabourg's Hornpipe” sounds as if someone has just cranked up the Victrola with a traditional dance set. After that first minute, “Ranzo (a.k.a. The Wild Goose Shanty)” enters, bold as brass, over bubbling bass, vocal 'hups,' and turntable scratching. The instrumental section of “The Coleford Jig/Prince of Cabourg's” combines what is really jazz-funk, turntablism, and saxophone; the key is that none of this comes off messy, as The Demon Barbers rollick along with such a confidence and joy that the listener is given over to the party even as it leaves off with more traditional piano accompaniment.

"May Song" (excerpt)

The oft-covered “May Song” is given a remarkable face lift, twinkling in on piano like cat's feet seeking the canary. The rolling melodeon work of Will Hampson is given heft and punch by the terrific rhythm section of Ben Griffith (drums) and Angus Milne (bass), so that the tune is reinvigorated with great originality. The same respect and updating of tradition is given to the remarkably odd song “The Bitter Withy” (a young, delinquent Jesus is given a spanking by Mary for letting his mate drown!). I'm willing to bet the buttons off my vest that “Rambling Rover” is an homage to Cordelia's Dad version, but here The Demon Barbers do a proper reggae version that in its rocking cadence fits the song well. (A punky-reggae influence crops up on “Go Boys Go,” and “Sir Lionel & The Boar” – with great vocals by fiddler Bryony Griffith -- as well.)

"Three Ravens" (excerpt)

Personally, I like my Demon Barbers dark, and the phenomenal version of “Three Ravens” here takes that tune into electro-English-folk territory, an uncharted land indeed. It's a scorching bit of unhinged creepiness that has the band firing on all cylinders.

The last set, “Disco at the Tavern/The Rock Stack/Riggs Low” brings it all together in a seven-minute plus inspired orgy of English folk, barroom piano, and clogging. An 'outro' by Mr. Barber, where he credits the band and guest performers, brings the festivities to a close with a grand 'Thank you!' So the album leaves off with a smile, but the Demon Barbers have achieved a tremendous coup: the hard work of re-working the tradition so that it appears effortless.

If there's one thing to be said, though, it's that Disco at the Tavern isn't 'disco' in the Giorgio Moroder sense. However, it's a brazen winner-take-all mash-up of influences that works, and The Demon Barbers let their glitter ball fly with aplomb. You want to dance? Mission accomplished. – Lee Blackstone

Looking for More Information?


return to rootsworld

© 2015 RootsWorld. No reproduction of any part of this page or its associated files is permitted without express written permission.


cd cover

Share on Facebook


RootsWorld depends on your support.
Contribute in any amount
and get our weekly e-newsletter.