It's probably no exaggeration to call this the most ambitious folk album ever made. It's mad — an 11-piece band (fronted by the ubiquitous Spiers and Boden) with a taste for the adventurous, ranging from "Flash Company," which seems to take its cue from the wilder aspects of Tom Waits, to the relatively straightforward "Jordan," but all with a slight circus tinge (it's not called Burlesque for no reason). "Courting Too Slow" offers an almost-baroque delicacy and the shanty "Across the Line" loses its rhythmic emphasis to highlight a gorgeous melody by Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento(!), while the brass on "One May Morning Early" takes its cue from Salvation Army bands. At times the band's reach exceeds its grasp — both "Flash Company" and "Death and the Lady" are unfocused and messy — but when you take chances, sometimes you miss. It might be a disc to be more admired than loved overall, but it's a starting point for a new folk direction.
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