Back in June 2010, I wrote about an EP by Johnny5thWheel&thecowards, an experimental folk group who have gained a grwing reputation on the UK live circuit. At the time, I questioned whether they were a serious proposition or an entertaining live act. Their first album should prove the theory either way.
What prevents Johnny5thWheel&thecowards from being taken totally seriously is the whiff of novelty that permeates through songs like ‘Little Red Hen’, which is almost like a naughty nursery rhyme. Then again, ‘Brotherly Love’ (one of the tracks which featured on the aforementioned EP), marks them as real contenders where the vocals contain a real bite and even the violin sounds edgy. Furthermore, ‘Jealous Matador’ escapes from its slightly camp trappings to create an atmopshere of Latin-inflected passion. Adding further colour to their palette, ‘Twist’ achieves fine results from a barber shop arrangement and it’s testament to the skills of the protagonists that it’s actually quite haunting too.
In truth, Johnny5thWheel aer first and foremost entertainers and there are several songs here which will go down better at a gig than on record. They play music to have fun and this is evident in the tongue in cheek nature of their songs. Yet the album also reveals the group are versatile and durable which should bode well for future releases.
Jack, Dexys Midnight Runners