Tony Cummings reports on Britain's new folk rockers EDEN BURNING.
Eden Burning's excellent debut album Thin Walls' shows that the Christian counterculture can throw up some exceptional talent. Say's Eden Burning's Paul Northup "The thing about playing folk orientated music is it gives a band real flexibility. It can be adapted to street busking, yet you can play the biggest rock music venues because it's really effective when it's all amplified as well."
Eden Burning consists of Paul Northup (vocals, guitar), Charlotte Ayrton (electro-acoustic rhythm guitar, harmonica, flute), Neil Forrest (mandolin, guitars, bouzouki and an accordion), Nive (bass) and Mike Simpson (drums and percussion). Paul explains the group's history. "We're all based at Charlton Kings Baptist Church. Charlton Kings is a village on the Oxford side of Cheltenham. We'd been playing in various line-ups for about three or four years. A young lady who played with us called Vicki - she's Charlotte's sister- played violin for a while with us and helped give us an Irishy kind of feel. And when last autumn Neil joined us on mandolin, the band really began to take on a distinctive roots sound. Neil brought a whole new flavour to the band."
Certainly Neil's lightning-fingered mandolin, and plaintive bouzouki have brought some dazzling instrumental dexterity to the band, while Charlotte's bluesy mouth harp is no Dylanesque suck-and-blow lightweight either. But what really gives Eden Burning creative focus are songs of plaintively poetic imagery. Take the Truth Song' from their album for instance "Thin walls divide our worlds apart/Thin walls indeed wide spaces grow lean and bare within my heart/As far as the eye can see dry tears that will not cry/Roll gently down my soul." Yet it's not all-sombre introspection. Try "Jericho Skies" where Old Testament history meets News At Ten immediacy. "Jericho trumpets in the Deutschland sky/The walls came tumbling down/Freedom angels sang their song too loud/The walls come tumbling down/Check Point Charlie dissolved in people/A river of power and strength/ Bradenburg Gate ringing with laughter/The walls came tumbling down."
Their album, superbly played and sung, brilliantly engineered and produced by Cheltenham studio man Dave Pick shows what can be achieved with a miniscule budget when those recording have musical chops.
Now Eden Burning are planning to launch into a full time music career in 1991. Explains Paul, "We'll be playing pubs and clubs and will hopefully do gigs like Cropperty's (The folk festival run by Fairport Convention near Oxford each year). But though gigs like the Mean Fiddler will be our bread and butter, as it were, we will be offering our music to the churches as a weekend based ministry because where we're coming from we've got a lot of experience in youth group work. We run a 60-strong youth group at our church.
"We've decided after a few dark nights of the soul not to neglect the ministry dimension. And since we've decided to honour God in all our ways, our music has been coming on in leaps and bounds." Naming their influences as "everyone from Woody Guthrie and Bruce Cockburn through to the Waterboys and Del Amitri" the band still have a freshness all their own. Their name is "meant to conjure up a sense of a fallen world and also a sense of longing, of burning for some form of perfection in each of us." Eden Burning are, along with Scotland's superlative Electrics, the most invigorating new roots band to emerge for years. In 1969 some folk-rock gospellers called Parchment made the Top 50. Maybe, just maybe, Eden Burning will repeat the feat in the next year or two.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.