Magic Car,
Yellow Main Sequence
(Tiny Dog, 2001)

There was once an advertisement on Irish radio with the tag line "a quare name but great stuff" -- and this album fits the tag.

I have never heard of this group Magic Car but I certainly want to hear a lot more. They are based in Nottingham in England but the sound is international folk.

My absolute favourite track has to be "Downtown." This should not be confused with a Petula Clarke hit of yesteryear. This is new, this is relevant, this is great. With lines like "He is bored, he is moody," it sets a very 21st-century scene. "He is a junkie -- for the city" is so real for many people. The delivery is excellent and the use of brass and a so-called "drunken" choir would get hit status if only mainline radio played good folk music.

Brass is an unusual component of a number of tracks. Though not the staple of folk music, it works extremely well.

I am fascinated by the use of titles that throw me. "Four in the Morning" has been synonymous with a maudlin country song for decades but Magic Car rehabilitate it on this CD. According to the sleeve notes, they have played it around Europe for years. I'm glad I heard it this year.

The sound of Magic Car is hard to characterise. They are English but I hope they will not be offended by my saying they remind me of some of the top Canadian groups. Their songs seem more grounded in the international scene than most of the better-known British folk artists.

"Three Cornered Hat" is a fabulous upbeat track about getting on with your life and can be recommended in sentiment and execution. "Bob Mitchum" is an intriguing title on a lovely slow track about life in the city. I cannot figure out if the Bob Mitchum here is THE Bob Mitchum. "Phobic Phoebe" is another weird title on a rollicking song in which, as Magic Car say, "if you are going to jump you may as well fly."

Oh yes, the title of the album and the final track, "Yellow Main Sequence," is according to Magic Car what scientists call the sun -- quite a poetic lot after all!

Seek out this group and encourage more albums like this.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 1 September 2001