In another life, on another planet, Davey Dodds used to be the front man of the prog-rock band Red Jasper. His individual style of song-writing gave the band a unique character. They were signed to the Dutch record label S I Music but when that folded in 1994, Davey quietly drifted away from the music scene and industry, although over the years his songs have been recorded by numerous bands, and his song ‘Magpie’ as performed by the Unthanks was used in the BBC series The Detectorists. For many years, he worked as a fly-fishing guide in remote, wilderness locations – and later in darkest Wiltshire! A couple of years ago, Davey moved back to Cornwall, where the places and people combined to get him writing and playing again.
This is authentic folksong, that takes the listener deep into “magical” Cornwall, without being “finger in the ear” stuff (sorry!). Davey’s songs are surprisingly hard edged, political, symbolic and atmospheric, being strongly influenced by traditional and Celtic themes, the local environment and his Druidic studies.
His 2017 album “Kernowcopia” got him known about and performing main stage slots at big festivals. “Toadstool Soup” is the follow-up to that, using the same strong local and traditional themes and reinforces his artistic renown, to the point where last year’s Fantasy Forest Festival billed him as ‘The master of Celtic rock’n’reel’ (groan!) There’s no doubt though that his live shows positively fizz with energy, with incisive lyrics and startling musicianship rattling your braincells and putting blisters on your feet. Because he writes great songs and performs with such great stage presence, other top musicians regularly join him for live shows.
To call “Toadstool Soup” a solo album’ would be doing it a grave mis-justice. His old conspirator from “Kernowcopia”, Martin Solomon has joined him again to weave magic with his Celtic harp and violin, while Carlton Crouch adds unworldly, almost pagan, power with his border pipes and Colin Loveless brings weight with his frame drums. The album also features utterly gorgeous backing vocals by Colette DeGiovanni and there is even a guest appearance by the redoubtable Jim Mageean. Davey himself wields his usual range of octave mandolin, mandolin, tin whistles and bodhrans, and delivers the arresting lyrics with his distinctive, resonant style (not dissimilar to ‘Fish’ from Marillion).
The opening track, ‘Lucia’, is a reminder of Davey’s previous stint as a fishing guide, it being about the almost demonic fresh-water fish, the pike. As with the best of folktales, the subject matter is quite dark, so the overall sound is a nice mix of simultaneously dark and light (see below).
The album as a whole is a polished production, happily mixing old and new. “The Rocky Road To Bodmin” and “Sheep Crook and Black Dog” are both a blend of trad and Davey’s own work; “Three Lines And A Whip” is a contemporary tale of low-life London, while “Sing The Sun” is Druidic. The album then closes with a three-part tale, the title track which again is a combination of various elements including quotes from WB Yeats.
I like this album, Davey writes quite sparse arrangements that are nevertheless able to spin an ambience around them. Simple arrangements with an interesting mix of well-played instruments means that you don’t have to be a “folkie” to enjoy listening to this!
Davey has just finished a few UK dates, and celebrates the album’s release by joining Pendragon’s tour bus to head for Europe. He will be playing support slots for the famous prog-rockers on ten consecutive dates in France, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Poland before he struts his stuff over the summer with his musical friends at lots of big festivals.
The adventure continues!