Rychard Carrington reports on Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings - The Junction, Cambridge, 30 May 2010

Jon Boden
Junction 2, The


It was good to see a large turnout, of a wide variety of ages, present to see Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings. Tall, intelligent, personable, enthusiastic, Boden has been a strong, positive presence in the folk scene of the last few years. He's someone you can trust. Musically, of course, he is talented and innovative.

The Junction has seen the magnificent Bellowhead and the equally magnificent Spiers & Boden. Now here was Jon with The Remnant Kings: Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron, Dave Angel and Rick Foot. The band have recorded one albuum, Songs From The Floodplain, an ambitious concept album about some future eco-apocalypse. The songs are written by Boden, yet the influence of the tradition (with all its experience of singing about dark forebodings and actual catastrophes) is pleasingly evident. I'm loath to enthuse about folksingers' songwriting, as I really want them to stick to traditional material predominantly, yet the songs on this album are as classy as one would expect from Boden.

All of the songs from the album featured in the gig, although not in the same order, and interspersed with other numbers. Actually it was the other numbers that were the highlights: the traditional Hard Times Of Old England and The Bonny Bunch Of Roses; Blue Dress and Joesphine form Boden's 2006 album Painted Lady; two Rudyard Kipling ballads; and, perhaps best of all, two surprising covers - Kate Bush's The Hounds Of Love (scored for three squeezeboxes) and, the final number, Hoagy Carmichael's Stardust.

There was a broad variety of instrumental arrangements. Boden, Sweeney and Harbron are all adept multi-insrumentalists, and Rick Foot contributed well on double bass. As often with folk, though, electric guitar and rocking drums dissipated rather than enhanced the power of the material.

A unique touch was the presence onstage of two Edison wax phonogaphs. An record advertising the phonograph was played at the commencement, and there were snatches of other recordings throughout. It was nice addition to the unusual on-stage meeting of past, present and imagined future, a meeting which evoked all those feelings about our relastionship to our collective history, which make engagement with folk music such a deep and moving experience.


Writer: Rychard Carrington