ROB HERON & THE TEAPAD ORCHESTRA –
MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING
2012 – Self Released
On this, their debut album, Rob Heron and the Teapad Orchestra play a style of music that very few others attempt in this 21st century. It is rooted in Vaudeville and not only requires a huge amount of skill but also a total commitment to the genre, something that is only possible if you love the music. The fact that this tremendous six piece band ticks both those boxes is beyond question, with their authenticity that brings a lovely warm atmosphere to the songs, almost giving areas of the music a feeling of improvisation, which I’m pretty sure was used in much of the original Vaudevillian performances. Fairly obviously they are well rehearsed and commited to the music but much of this excellent album does have that appealingly casual air about it, as if they are relaxed and comfortable in the musical position they find themselves in, which indeed they should be. Whilst they do create that old time vaudevillian atmosphere they also blend Cajun, blues, latin American, a British folk feel on occasions, hillbilly a la Jimmie Rodgers, a little hokum, jazz and even Portugese into this entertaining upbeat musical package!
The band consists of Rob Heron on lead vocals and guitar, Tom Cronin, mandolin and vocals, Colin Nicholson, accordion and vocals, Ben Fitzgerald on lead guitar and vocals, Rob Blazey, double bass and vocals, Dav Shiel, drums and vocals. Most of the songs are written by the band except for Danse De La Limonade, by Leroy Broussard, (translated by Rob Heron)Bairro Alto by Rob Heron and Sofia De Castro and Bank Failures by Bobby Miller. Heron’s almost laid back, but warmly expressive vocals fit perfectly with this predominately upbeat music and the instrumentation blend is well chosen and expertly played with a lovely loose feel that can only really happen when musicians are confident in their own and fellow band members abilities. The only other modern band that I can think of to compare them to is the ‘Two Men Gentleman Band’ but fairly obviously this band has a much fuller sound and more variety, although with probably the same sense of fun and energetic musical philosophy.
The album gets underway with a piece of driving Cajun dance music, Danse De La Limonade, with its insistent propulsive accordion, followed by a change of direction on Great Fire Of Byker, an excellent vaudevillian styled song about the destruction by fire of a scrapyard in Newcastle a couple of years ago! Money Isn’t Everything is driven by a powerful double bass and accordion and would be easily imagined being played in a steamy 1930s L.A bar, despite the excellent use of mandolin on a song that also has a little of the Latin American feel.The folksy Americana of Bobby Miller’s Bank Failures is an excellent protest song that is as relevant now as it was at time of writing eighty odd years, even including some yodels and a nice mandolin with brushed snare, double bass and acoustic guitar. A really good easy going song that gets its point across well. Rich Man Now is another song with
vaudevillian roots and British references. It is very cleverly constructed with the use of a sousaphone and accordion plus mandolin, with support from guitar, cornet, bass, drums, harmonica and guitar! The instrumentation never gets in the way of the song which overall provides an excellent example of this tremendous bands command of the various musical styles that they settle on. Finally, She Don’t Like The Fish is an an easy going blues song that is very reminiscent of jimmie Rodgers, including the lovely resonator guitar as accompaniment to conclude an album that contains a rich diversity of sounds within the loosely vaudevillian genre.
All in all this is a high quality debut by a band of talented musicians that I can imagine shine even brighter live than they do on c.d.