DANCE OF THE COPPER TRAIL - OKA VANGA
LCM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Release date: 31st March, 2017.
Genre: Folk and Roots, Americana, Jazz.
Band Members: William Cox and Angela Mayer
Location: Hertford, Hertfordshire
Record Label: Crazy Bird Records
'Dance Of The Copper Trail' is the excellent new second studio album from husband and wife duo (Angela Meyer and William Cox) better known as Oka Vanga. It's a real revelation, a marvellous watershed album for the duo. A great mix of styles with superb guitar playing, vocals and arrangements. It is an album which is going to get a lot of attention and will hopefully bring Oka Vanga to a wider audience. It certainly 'raises the bar' adding the very talented Patsy Reid (one of Scotland's finest fiddler's) and Oliver Copeland (Double Bass) into the intoxicating mix. 'The Dance Of The Copper Trail' contains overall themes of faith, superstition, love, loss, death and everlasting hope.
It is exciting too as Angie provides the album's vocals for the first time, a departure from their debut album 'Pilgrim' released in 2014 which was a purely instrumental. Again very high quality, it won FATEA's 2014 'instrumental album of the year'. The 'Tales of Eyam' EP followed in 2015, providing a first tantalizing taste of Angie vocals.
Angie's singing reminds me of a cross between Jacqui McShee (Pentangle), Beth Porter (Ma Polaine's Great Decline) and Jade Ward (The Willows). Most of the songs are written and arranged by Angie, with a few traditional songs included, which round out this excellent mix of old and self penned contemporary music.
The album begins with 'The Wicken Tree', which explores the old superstitions of the Rowan or 'Wicken' tree. The tree known to the Celts as 'Fid Nan Druad' (The wizard tree). It was thought to have magical properties, warding off the Devil and bringing good luck. The song has a real 'Pentangle' feel about it. Patsy's fiddle line interplays with Oliver's double bass notes and the subtle dual acoustic guitars from Angie and Will. One of my favourite song's on the album. It's a real classic with great hooks, arrangements and a memorable chorus. A song which deserves a wide audience.
Written about a bird now rare in Scotland is the bright and jazzy Americana flavoured 'Capercaillie', it is based on an old traditional tune called 'Lord Lovat's Lament' with new words from Angie. Wonderful guitar solo and Patsy's superb fiddle playing is the 'icing on the cake' for this track. Marvellous. With it's driving bass and guitar lines 'Ashes To The WInd' is a song about Motherhood and is based on the myths and legends of Avebury. One of the oldest traditional Irish Folk songs thought to date back to medieval times is 'She Moved Through The Fair'. Beautiful finger plucked acoustic guitar which reminds me of the award winning Ben Walker.
A super instrumental written by Angie and Will with the key themes of thinking positively and taking on one day at a time is the next song on the album the reflective 'Don't Let The Clouds Roll In'. Suffering from a serious illness in 2016, the music in their lives sustained them through these dark times. 'The Devil's Tide' takes 17th Century flame-haired female pirate Anne Bonny from Cork as it's inspiration. Known for her fierce temper, Anne was the scourge of the Caribbean. 'Song Of The River' features tremolo guitar, a classical guitar technique that Angie learned as a teenager. Will plays mandolin for the first time on an album. It's high crisp sound perfectly complements the underpinning guitar sound and Patsy's fiddle playing. It gives it an almost Spanish feel.
A classic tale of two young lovers torn apart by circumstances and the Great North Coalfield provides the central themes of 'Rose Of The Hill'. The coalfields which reached their peak in 1913 employed almost 750,000 men. Coal ships transported these 'black diamonds' down the East Coast. 'My Sweet Guitar' is described in sleeve notes as "musical sunshine with a wink of jazz" and we wouldn't argue with that. A bouncy, infectious and very catchy addition to the album. 'Out of The Fire' is a very personal and reflective song, based on Angie disillusionment in her late 20's with performing. She didn't play her guitar for two years. It took a break and a change of country and circumstances to change her mind. Sometimes you have to go back or sideways to move forward again. "There is no love without pain".
The album ends fittingly with a song first made famous in the 1930's by one of Angie's inspirations, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, referred to as "the original soul sister" and "the godmother of rock and roll". 'This Train' is Angie's arrangement of a traditional gospel blues song. "A steam locomotive with a heart that sings". As you would expect some excellent acoustic guitar solo's from Angie and Will.