With a name as playful as David Harbottle & The Friendly Cats, one of the strongest elements I initially expected from their record was quite simply, fun. Happily, the seven-piece outfit’s third EP, Dawn Breaks, doesn’t disappoint in that sense and furthermore, it manages to achieve this with an accompanying thoughtful, sometimes even melancholy edge.
The opening track, ‘Bold Street Bill’ is a great example, as it kicks in with jaunty strings both plucked and bowed, to tell the unfortunate tale of Bill. Quips such as, ‘You’re just a joke with a Morrisons bag and your fiddle, it makes a squeal’, keep things light, but you can’t help but notice the underlying hopelessness to his story.
Songs such as ‘The Saucy Sailor Boy’ and ‘Bonny Blue Handkerchief’ skip merrily along, inviting you to stand opposite your partner and swing them round to the menagerie of sound that consists of guitar, concertina, cello, cajón and mandolin, to name a few. The quieter moments, such as ‘The world is listening’, allow the gorgeous vocals to come intimately to the forefront; the harmonies complimenting each other beautifully whilst each voice individually grabs and ravels you in, forcing you to listen intently.
Some of these tunes wouldn’t be out of place played loudly in a packed Irish pub, the raucous punters’ whoops rising above, hollered alongside many a jig and a thigh-slap. The luscious layered vocals and gentler tempo of others break the party up somewhat, but stand out in their romantic, mellifluous beauty. David Harbottle & The Friendly Cats unite these quite different sounds smoothly into a short but spirited 20 minutes of jollity, tinged with a silvery sadness.
Words: Jules Foreman