Discovering The Orange Circus Band felt like stumbling across a hoedown deep in Appalachia. It came as a slight surprise to find out they are from Kent and Wales, although there is a link to Virginia. From start to finish their new album Whistle In The Dawn is a glorious mix of bluegrass, mountain music and old style country. The Orange Circus Band come across with the spontaneity of their knock-out live act.
‘Old Souls’ opens the album with a deceptively wistful a capella, “Old Souls are flowing through/ Run out through your fingers/ and down in your toes/ we all want to be in that rock ‘n’ roll band/ This train rolls forever in that promised land”. With those lines Jessie Moonlight, Flash Hearth and Raven burst into a blaze of bluegrass strings and harmonies that make the spirits soar.
‘Sit Down By The Fire’ goes deeper into Appalachia. Again the pace is fast, the vocals sound earthier as the fiddle, mandolin and banjo in perfect step urge, “Our feet stomping down/ As the flames rise higher”. There is no going back. Up next and wilder still comes ‘The Circus Song’ as Moonlight whoops with the joy of joining the circus troupe.
All this rousing bluegrass would convert even the most unwilling foot stomper but when they slow down a bit The Orange Circus Band reveal further musical influences. ‘Fly the River’ blends an English folk vibe with classic Americana. It’s this ability to vary the mix that sets The Orange Circus Band apart.
‘I Miss You’ laments lost love and just aches with lonesome fiddle and sad pedal steel. This classic country shows that love, break-up and its fallout know no boundaries. Jessie Moonlight sings as if she’s in the gloomiest old joint in Nashville. Heartache is just the same the world over. And it never ends either. At a moderate pace is ‘Life Force’, again going in a slightly different direction that builds up into a country rock crescendo that would grace Laurel Canyon.
This willingness to experiment leads neatly to the album’s highlight, ‘Dust Monkey’. Again, with a sense of foreboding Raven’s fiddle twists and turns with intensity before silence falls. As the lyric becomes an anthem, “I don’t wait till the moonlight flows/ All I see is the sunlight glows” the band take off. English folk rock meets bluegrass in a pure celebration of Americana.
Moonlight, Hearth and Raven do most of the writing but The Orange Circus is a true collective. Others in the band are bassist Baron Purcell, bass and pedal steel player Sequoia Coyote and percussionists Hugo Squire Jones, Pete Hedley and Pabs Picarro.
The Orange Circus Band may be from Kent and Wales but their bluegrass, country sound is the genuine article. Unsurprisingly, they are attracting many fans, including Whispering Bob Harris. Whistle In The Dawn will bring many more and as with this reviewer, all will look forward to when The Orange Circus can resume playing live.