Ferocious Dog are arguably the outright kings of the UK folk-punk scene right now; ever since the release of their stunning self-titled debut in 2013, the Nottinghamshire boys have built an incredible career so far with their blend of sociopolitical commentary in the spirit of Billy Bragg with the musicianship of the legendary Levellers and the furious energy of the Pogues. What’s even more remarkable is that they’ve done it almost entirely off their own backs, endless self-promotion and crowdfunding from the legions of ‘Hell Hounds’ that are about as passionate a fanbase as you’ll find anywhere. This has resulted in some fantastic achievements so far, sell out hometown shows at the iconic Rock City venue (the first independent band to do so in its history), consistently positive reviews all over the place, and major tours with The Levellers across the UK and Europe.
They’ve now returned with their third studio album, “Red”, and while it may seem a tall task to follow 2015’s masterpiece, “From Without”, the Warsop six-piece have done it brilliantly. Unmistakably keeping their signature sound that’s worked so well, they’ve continued to develop and grow, every track sounding completely fresh. It rips along at a fair old pace, opener “Black Gold” starts with blistering mandolin backed by watertight guitar, bass and drums. “American Dream” sounds like it could easily fit onto any of the best records the Dropkicks have ever done, and “Spin” channels trad Irish folk with superb tin whistle throughout. The pace continues with “Black Leg Miner” and “Together We Are Strong”, but it’s “A & B” that showcases how this band has widened its range. A beautifully stripped-back and slower track, it’s effortlessly performed with heartfelt vocals, layered with guitar and violin that works perfectly together. The rest of the album throws you straight back into classic FD territory, including a rip-roaring cover of “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya”, but the biggest surprise is left until the final track (if you’re not familiar with the band). “Class War” is 7 minutes of ska/reggae/folk/punk magnificence, railing against the powers-that-be and the effect it’s having on the working class. It’s got elements of Edward II in its fusion of dub and folk, with a sudden burst of straight up punkiness in the middle. It’s a brilliant closer and one that further shows that this lot could put their hands to almost anything and still be top class.
Although the entire band is supremely talented, for me there are two stand out elements. Frontman Ken Bonsall is probably the most authentic working-class voice out there right now, combining honesty and accessibility in equal measure, and up there with some of the best folk singers to ever come out of England’s towns and cities. Violinist Dan Booth, however, is the member that elevates the band’s sound above all others. In my humble opinion, he is quite possibly the best violinist in the scene, switching from bow-shredding speeds that put some punk guitarists to shame, to emotionally charged melodies that could bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened souls. All in all, this is another triumph for a band doing things the way they want to do it, and succeeding in every which way. Get this on your Christmas list, or just buy it for yourself. Either way, get listening.
- Mike (Mersey Celt Punks)
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