Where do you begin with these three? Ian Anderson (the other one) long time brit bluesman and editor of Froots mag, singer and guitarist, Lu Edmonds – former Mekon, current PIL guitarist, Uncle Patrel from 3M3 who here wields guitar, saz and Cümbüş. Third, but by no means least is Ben Mandelson (also 3M3, Magazine and many other bands), mandolin and baritone bouzouki. I daresay they play other stuff too, but I don’t have the CD cover to hand.
What about the music then? Well eclectic doesn’t even begin to do it justice. Uptempo shuffles (Don’t you just Know it), old folk / blues (Lovin’ Henry, Lord Allenwater), Memphis Minnie revisited (Me and my Chauffeur), raggy country-blues (South Coast Bound, The Preachers Blues, Crazy Fool Mumble), delta blues (A Few of Your Lines) and more, are all put through the Bloke’s mangle and come out indelibly stamped with their own quirky personality. Saz and Cümbüş clatter through riffs, mandolin plinks a la Yank Rachell via the balkans whilstAnderson’s guitar glues it all together. The spirited lead vocals are shared between Anderson and Edmonds (including some in guttural Russian!) with backing from Mandelson.
The overall spirit that this collection exudes is one of a group of musicians having a great time, all experts in their field, but all is put in service of the song, and a well-chosen bunch of songs at that.
Too quirky for mass-appeal, (I was at a sparsely attended gig – a shame as the guys were firing on all cylinders and did more material not recorded here – hope they do a second collection), it’s a shame this one slipped through the net. It lived on my car stereo for a long time, and still sounds fresh now, a real feat when somethings been played so much.
Lots of these guys on the net, here are some links etc.
Hear some of the songs on the Myspace Page
Oh – and Ben and Lu are two of Billy Bragg’s Blokes!
Following the engagement by PIL of Lu, the remaining Blokes are out and about as The False Beards –
a number of iPhone videos available on Youtube – just watch the above video on Youtube for what seems like the whole show. Some old favourites, and some new ones, and Ben really gets to shine on mandolin.
The False Beards – review
Green Note, London
guardian.co.uk, Monday 9 January 2012 19.00 GMT
As debut performances go, this was a remarkably easygoing, adventurous and good-natured affair – but then Ben Mandelson and the music journalist Ian Anderson are not exactly newcomers. Both have played in an extraordinary number of different bands, with Mandelson’s CV alone featuring Billy Bragg’s Blokes, the new Yiddish Twist Orchestra, the bravely experimental Les Triaboliques and Blue Blokes 3. Now, with Lu Edmonds off working with John Lydon in PiL, BB3 has shrunk into a new acoustic duo, The False Beards.
Mandelson compared what they were doing to the New York coffee-shop scene back in the 60s (“Paul Simon will be along in a minute”), and also to the era when a new generation of musical enthusiasts reworked early blues and country songs. Thus, they opened the set with a burst of American ragtime and country, with Black Dog Blues and The Spring of 65, taken from the repertoires of Spider John Koerner and that great old-time music veteran Tom Paley. Anderson provided solid guitar work and vocals, always sounding distinctively English rather than American, while Mandelson added dazzling accompaniment on baritone bouzouki – his own invention, a modified 30s guitar – and mandolin.
Then they started branching out with reminders of Anderson’s early career in the psych-folk movement, including a cheerfully jaunty treatment of the Stones’s Paint It, Black (which he first recorded in 1969, in the days when he sported a large moustache and unfortunate shirts). Then came a twanging reminder of the original 50s version of A Fool Such as I, a few traditional English songs, a west African melody, then a return to good-time country blues. Edmonds’s presence is missed, of course, but this is a classy and entertaining new duo.