Blowzabella is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based wall-of-sound played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling They compose their own music which is influenced by English and European traditional folk music and song – a shared culture with ancient roots.
Andy Cutting – diatonic button accordion; Jo Freya – vocals, saxophone, clarinet; Paul James – vocals, bagpipes, saxophones; Gregory Jolivet – hurdy-gurdy; David Shepherd – violin; Barn Stradling – bass guitar; Jon Swayne – bagpipes, saxophone.
Many of their tunes are “standards” in the modern British/European folk repertoire and are played by people all over the world. Bands across Europe who experiment with folk music often cite Blowzabella as a major influence. Much loved and respected, there is no one else quite like them.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
"BLOWZABELLA Two Score. If I’ve counted correctly, the good brethren and sistren of Blowzabella – Andy Cutting, Jo Freya, Paul James, Gregory Jolivet, Dave Shepherd, Barnaby Stradling and Jon Swayne – play somewhere between 26 and 32 different instruments through the course of this gramophone record, charging between electric alto hurdy gurdy, bass clarinet, diatonic button accordeon, border bagpipes, alto sax, electric bass and, er, triangle. Small wonder they sound like nobody else… and in the course of their 40-year career, they never have done. A wily old poke in the eye to Brexiteers everywhere, they simultaneously sound very English – especially when Jo Freya takes on a vocal like Adam Was A Poacher and Uttoxeter Souling Song – yet still, after all these years, rampagingly Euro… and often quite mad. Brass presents a hefty rhythm stomp, while hurdy gurdy, fiddle and accordeon weave patterns that whip you into some far distant parallel universe where you dance, you sing, you do somersaults among bluebells, you quaff magic ale and you smile until your ears fall off. It sounds like it is the music of some ancient tradition, yet it is fresh and alert also. There is virtuosity a-plenty in their instrumental interplay, musical banter and complex
arrangements yet, even with the likes of Andy Cutting, Paul James and Gregory Jolivet aboard, the individual brilliance is still surpassed by the sum of the parts. Here, on what must be something like their fourteenth album, their own song and tune writing gets a generous airing – with some radical adaptations along the way, such as the Lark Descending/Bushes & Briars variation assembled by Paul James in homage to Vaughan Williams; the sprightly Grenoside Processional Dance, created by Dave Shepherd’s dad Dick Shepherd in 1951; a bunch of polkas written by Jo Freya and a wild and wonderful tune by Paul James called Coteeto, which at times wanders into the realms of modern jazz. The music is played with a broad smile and an uplifting spirit that will warm the cockles of your heart… and the heart of your cockles."
Colin Irwin fROOTS 2018
”Then Blowzabella introduced a set about “death, and things going wrong … but we do play happy tunes too, honest!”: the folk legends’ Saturday-night headline slot was original and enjoyable. It also offered the rare opportunity to witness the versatility of a hurdy-gurdy in the skilled hands of Grégory Jolivet. The British and European traditions that Blowzabella blend brought a welcome but all too rare foreign accent to the music. With so many nations shaping our past, present and future, where were the musicians who can enrich English folk with their mixed heritage?
Imogen Tilden. THE GUARDIAN
“If ever a band was overdue a lifetime achievement award it is Blowzabella. Not only have they written a stack of what have become standard tunes in sessions on both sides of the channel, but they have also been largely responsible for reviving English Bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy, instruments that played a foundational role in traditional music.”
Andrew Letcher. SONGLINES.
“Musically I’m inspired by all sorts: a lot of electronica, like Autechre and Funkstorung, and pop music and bands too, people like David Bowie and The Ramones, and these weird folk records like Blowzabella.”
Joseph Mount, aka METRONOMY.
“I’m a massive fan. Huge. All my life I’ve loved Blowzabella and have watched you all live loads of wonderful times. I emailed you years ago, and we spoke about how children seem to love Blowzabella’s sound. And I just thought I’d email again now I have children of my own. A daughter and a son. I can now confirm that your music is still a firm favourite of the next generation. We love you. Always have, always will. I just want to say thank you.”
“Blowzabella deliver that rare beast – a live album that somehow manages to capture the rampaging spirit of musical freedom that first marked them apart from all other bands… and has never been replicated since.”
Colin Irwin. fROOTS.
Discography and Books
Two Score. Blowzabella4. 2018. Andy Cutting, Jo Freya, Paul James, Gregory Jolivet, Dave Shepherd, Barn Stradling, Jon Swayne.
BOOK - More Scores. 2018. All the Blowzabella tunes composed since 2007.
Strange News. Blowzabella3. 2013. Andy Cutting, Jo Freya, Paul James, Gregory Jolivet, Dave Shepherd, Barn Stradling, Jon Swayne.
Dance. Blowzabella2. 2010 Andy Cutting, Jo Freya, Paul James, Gregory Jolivet, Dave Shepherd, Barn Stradling, Jon Swayne.
Octomento. Blowzabella1. 2007. Andy Cutting, Jo Freya, Paul James, Gregory Jolivet, Dave Shepherd, Barn Stradling, Jon Swayne.
BOOK - New Tunes for Dancing. 2004. Blowzabella tune and dance book.
Compilation. Compilation from studio albums 1982-1990. Osmosys Records OSMO CD001. 1995.
Vanilla. Special Delivery SPDCD 1028. 1990. Andy Cutting, Nigel Eaton, Jo Freya, Paul James, Ian Luff, Dave Shepherd, Jon Swayne.
A Richer Dust. Plant Life Records PLCD 080. 1988. Reissued : Osmosys Records OSMO CD010. 1996. Nigel Eaton, Jo Freya, Paul James, Ian Luff, Dave Roberts, Dave Shepherd, Jon Swayne.
Pingha Frenzy. Recorded live on tour in Brazil. Some Bizzare GHCD 1. 1988. Nigel Eaton, Paul James, Ian Luff, Dave Roberts, Dave Shepherd.
The B to A of Blowzabella. BZB01. 1986. Nigel Eaton, Paul James, Ian Luff, Dave Roberts, Dave Shepherd, Jon Swayne.
BOOK - Encyclopaedia Blowzabellica. Blowzabella tune and dance book. pub: Dragonfly Music. 1986. Reprinted 2004.
Wall Of Sound. Plant Life Records PLR074. 1986. Reissued : Osmosys Records OSMO CD005. 1996. Nigel Eaton, Paul James, Ian Luff, Dave Roberts, Dave Shepherd, Jon Swayne.
Bobbityshooty. Plant Life Records PLR064. 1984. Reissued : Osmosys Records OSMO CD015. 1998. Dave Armitage, Paul James, Dave Roberts, Dave Shepherd, Cliff Stapleton, Jon Swayne.
Tam Lin. Frankie Armstrong and Blowzabella. Plant Life Records PLR063. 1984. Frankie Armstrong, Brian Pearson, Jon Gillaspie, Dave Armitage, Paul James, Dave Roberts, Dave Shepherd, Cliff Stapleton, Jon Swayne.
In Colour. Plant Life Records. PLR051. 1983. Dave Armitage, Paul James, Sam Palmer, Dave Roberts, Dave Shepherd, Cliff Stapleton, Jon Swayne.
Traditional Dance Music. Plant Life Records. PLR 038. 1982. Chris Gunstone, Paul James, Sam Palmer, Dave Roberts, Cliff Stapleton, Jon Swayne.