|Dimensions||14 × 12.5 × 1 cm|
The Wheeze & Suck Band live in and around Sydney, Australia, yet their music is firmly in the tradition of the great UK folk rock bands such as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span.
The Wheezers offer roots music’s equivalent to a Music Hall review; each performer delivers a unique individuality within a seamless band performance. To this band, there is a joy in making an intimate connection with every audience.
Experiencing a ‘Wheezers’ show, you understand this immediately. The W&S line up delivers exquisite harmonies doubling as individual lead vocalists; instruments include acoustic and electric guitars, cello mandolin, squeezebox and percussion. The material includes terrific tunes, great award-winning sing-along original and traditional songs, a touch of music hall, underpinned by plenty of self-effacing humour.
Antique military costumes and top hats give them a colourful, distinctive on-stage presence, which over the years has inspired a minor revolution in many bands’ approach to on-stage presentation.
The Band is a regular feature at festivals, large and small across Australia and New Zealand; boasting three appearances at consecutive Woodford Festivals; regular appearances at both the National and Illawarra Folk Festivals since 1998 and a very successful inaugural appearance at Port Fairy Festival in 2010. In 2009 the Wheezers undertook a 2 week tour of New Zealand including SRO performances at the Auckland Folk Festival and a special appearance at the World famous Festival of Lights in New Plymouth. We also headlined at the Wellington Folk Festival in 2012. We have played at every St Albans (NSW) festival since 1998.
Review by Tony Smith
Festival performances by the Wheezers are always lively and enjoyable.
Four blokes in top hats and English country gear tending towards the outfits favoured by Morris sides, belt out traditional dance tunes and testosteroneladen songs about love and war, good and ill fortune and the plight of the labouring classes.
They never take themselves too seriously, but their audiences always appreciate the band’s excellent harmonies, fine instrumental abilities and choice of repertoire.
In this very welcome CD – the band’s seventh – the Wheezers demonstrate all of the gifts that make their live performances so memorable.
Indeed, the input of former Wheezer Tony Pyrzalowski as arranger and fiddler, rounds out the band’s sound in a way that will give these tunes immediate appeal to any fan of traditional music.
The Wheezers are a quartet comprising Ian ‘The Pump’ Macintosh (of Oxford) on guitar, vocals and melodeon, Geoff ‘One Shot Woody’ Woodhead (Manchester) on guitar, bass and vocals, Nigel ‘Muddy’ Walters (Bath) on mandolin and vocals and John ‘Red Tips’ Milce (Liverpool) on percussion, finances and ‘management’.
Sometimes, Australia’s rich diversity as a cultural melting pot is obvious.
Unfortunately, language can be a barrier to the full participation of ‘ethnic minorities’ in the folk scene and can inhibit our appreciation of more exotic music, song and dance.
A band such as the Wheezers however, use an idiom accessible to most of us while presenting a cultural form that was important to the ancestors of a large section of the population.
Both the original compositions and the arrangements are true to traditional style.
While specifically English, they provide a taste of a musical subculture and so encourage a broader interest in historical genres more generally.
This CD opens with ‘The New Wassail/ Blowzabella/ Grenocide Sword Dance’, a medley which begins a capella, displaying rich vocal harmonies, then introduces the various instruments.
Then follows Richard Thompson’s classic from 1974 ‘Down Where the Drunkards Roll’. As the cover notes say, Muddy Walters provides a more celebratory rendition than the poignant original.
Then new life is breathed into ‘Breton Donkey/ Donkey Riding’. The Pump’s ‘Hunting ground’ is a big ballad about poaching and rebellion, a popular theme in British folk song. At times Dylanesque in style, this powerful song should resonate with older Australians, many of whose forebears were transported for minor crimes, and in the case of poaching, may have been driven to desperation through starvation. Newer Australians from other lands will recognise the oppression caused by class, disparities in wealth and power and the use of Draconian legislation to protect privilege.
‘Mrs Tape Measure’ is a delightful instrumental dedicated to Meg Woodhead, who sustains the band in many ways. She worries about their diets and wellbeing and contributes greatly to their levels of enthusiasm.
The final set, Pete Coe’s ‘The Wizard of Alderley Edge/ Over t’Edge and The Pump’s ‘The Macclesfield Dandy’ arises from the band’s interest in English mythology and mysticism. There might be some serious intent here, but the Wheeze and Suck Band always deliver the songs in a bright and breezy tone.
At a tad under 40 minutes, ‘The Macclesfield Dandy’ left this listener wanting more, but glad that the standard is so uniformly high throughout the 6 or 10 tracks, depending on how you count.
NATIONAL FOLK FESTIVAL 2010
Your Monday morning set (at The Coorong) was one of the gigs for the ages. Bill Quin – ArtsoundFM, Canberra
You guys were on fire! Awesome show 🙂 Jerry Everard (Full Circle Band)
A couple of young ladies (late teens??) came in during your concert in the Marquee and seemed to have just randomly picked the gig. But they seemed quite enthralled by your show and stayed to the finish. David Wilks
I was very impressed with the group’s live performances at the National. I caught two shows. Excellent. Warren Fahey
These guys were the Festival highlight for me ‘Flacko’ (Photographer)
Had a blast at the National FF, getting to as many of the Wheezers concerts that I could possibly manage. The best thing about your concerts is that you all seem to be enjoying yourselves so much and getting so pumped up by the response of the crowd, in addition to the great songs and excellent musicianship of course.. ‘Kerry G’ (audience member)
GENERAL QUOTES the wheezers are without doubt one of the, if not THE premier folk bands in this state Vic Jeffries (Poet and festival MC)
Youse guys was great !!!! Shez Wright (Woodford Folk Festival Venue Manager / MC)
“I think you’re wonderful, if you lot could be hooked up to a power grid we’d blow the nuclear energy argument out of the water for once and for all.” – Jan Nary – (ex) Publicist, National Folk Festival.
For the record, as I repeat often on air and on stage, I’ve been a massive fan of ‘Flash Lads’ since I bought my copy at Kangaroo Valley. Album of the/that year. Bill Quin – ArtsoundFM, Canberra
Your group were the absolute stars of the (2011 Turning Wave) Festival Joan Dunn (Audience member)
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