“they sing like a brother and sister – naturally, intuitively, irresistibly” “this is an entrancing record” (4/5) Album of the week, Mail on Sunday
The fifth Sweet Billy Pilgrim album, released in 2018, sees the group reduce from a six piece down to a two piece, for an especially intimate collection of songs.
1). Asking For A Friend
2). Ash On The Blacktop
3). Junkyard Dogs
4). Lombardy Poplar
5). Why The Long Face
6). The Briar Bell
7). A Shelter of Reeds
8). These Sudden Stars
Wapentak Press release:
Twelve years, four critically acclaimed albums, one Mercury Music Prize nomination, an appearance in the IT Crowd and lots of performances later, Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s Tim Elsenburg is remembering things.
He remembers answering his phone whilst repairing an office toilet in Farnborough to the news that Twice Born Men had been shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize; he remembers meeting Jana on Twitter, and how her voice felt like part of his own the first time they sang together; he remembers selling all his guitars to pay the rent; he remembers Mojo magazine calling third album Crown & Treaty a five star ‘stone cold classic’.
Sweet Billy Pilgrim have recently gone from being a noisy six-piece band to just being Tim and Jana; something that initially felt frightening, but that soon became an opportunity to focus more simply on two voices and the words that they sing. Their new album is called Wapentak. Historically, the word has become synonymous with a kind of local assembly, but initially this Norse-derived noun described a Saxon lord looking for an army. He would travel his ‘hundred’ and recruit via the wapentak (‘weapon-take’) by touching raised spear-heads with those prepared to fight with him.
Tim explains: "As humans, I think we instinctively look for common ground when we interact, and - most of the time - if we invest a little time and effort in each other, we find it. Hopefully, we don’t have to ride around with a spear now to find like-minds; it might be a book we’ve read or a shared love of cake, but this is the bridge that carries us over our differences towards a feeling best described as comfort.
Sadly, there are people who just want to focus on the differences; making the world around us shapeless and threatening so that what might separate us, denied any context, is all we can see. People who want to build walls. People who ignore intentions and look for fault. People who put some outdated, tribal notion of sovereignty above kindness. People who are afraid, but call it something - and blame it on someone - else. People who forget that we’re all immigrants and a thousand years from now - if we’re still around - we’ll all be the same colour, living in a world where putting up borders would make as much sense as Noah building a f**king swimming pool instead of an ark as the heavens opened."
Wapentak is about what we share, and about what we miss when we build walls and forget what it is to be kind. It’s the sound of band dialling down the complexity and noise a little and returning to a simple idea: that voices raised together can make things better, even just for a moment; and that through telling stories we might find each other again.