Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Mostly Autumn - Graveyard Star CD (album) cover


Mostly Autumn


Prog Folk

4.14 | 129 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Reviewer
5 stars For a band who were originally well-known for their love of fantasy epics a la Tolkien and early releases which contained more than a few Celtic and Norse mythical references, latter-day releases by this superb York outfit have been well and truly grounded in the real world. Witness the incredible dying moments story of Dressed in Voices and the achingly sad tribute to Liam Davison in White Rainbow.

Now in 2021, we are presented with a paeon to the Coronavirus pandemic in Graveyard Star, and, thankfully, it is not nearly as depressing as that brief description alludes to.

When I reviewed Big Big Train's Common Ground, I remarked that the lurgy track The Strangest Times seemed a wee bit out of place for a band who dealt primarily with English and Classical history. I have grown to like that track over the passing of the months, but, right from the outset, I had no such qualms about this album. Indeed, this album, to me, marks Mostly Autumn, and Bryan Josh as the driving force behind the collective, as one of the finest modern folk outfits the UK has produced, and by folk I do not mean the narrowly defined definition of prog folk on this site, but a genre, a way of making music and producing thoughtful and relevant lyrics grounded in the collective consciousness of a nation. This entire album is one which millions of people can relate to from bitter experience.

The title track (January 2020 in the Covid timeline) bursts into life with a deep and heavy energy. At over 12 minutes long, though, the moods swing, especially in the thoughtful passage which recalls "so much time, so long ago" pre- pandemic. The Josh axe in this passage simply sings out to us, and throughout the vocal interplay between Bryan and his wife Olivia drags us into the shared emotions of the story. In the heavier passages, Henry Rogers blasts his drum kit perfectly in resonance with Andy Smith's bass, and behind all this the sweeping panoramas of Iain Jennings' keyboards. Olivia blasts out the closing section with an energy and force which takes the breath away, and this segues into the distinctly ghostly The Plague Bell, in which Josh tells perfectly of the darkness of the emotions we all felt as lockdown descended on us.

Skin of Mankind is a wonderful track, commencing with what can only be described as a type of rockabilly meets The Shadows guitar riff ? don't be put off by that. I have fond memories of playing the cd for the first time on a journey back from visiting my son, with my wife exclaiming it was "the best she had ever heard MA!" The body of the track has at its heart a delicate and thoughtful vocal by Olivia, who continues to prove that she has a huge range, power to ballad, but always thoughtful and deeply emotional. This track is the first to feature as a guest the wonderful Troy Donockley on his range of wonderful instruments, with some fine violins being provided by Chris Leslie.

Shadows is a more "traditional" MA track, but one which all of us will relate to in its description of not being able to see our loved ones during an enforced absence and its nod to the real heroes of the pandemic, namely the frontline healthcare workers who deliver despite the worst efforts of their leaders. Nobody in modern rock music does a soaring guitar riff better than Josh, and he delivers again here.

The Harder That You Hurt is the first joint writing effort on the album between Olivia & Bryan, and it returns us to the more delicate mood. The lyrics are insightful and knowing, the stronger you are, the weaker you feel, the deeper that you bleed. The track counts the days before getting back on the road. Your breath is taken away with this when Olivia hurls out the final vocal passage, which follows a very introspective guitar solo, a change of mood which can only be described as stunning, and the power of the track at the denouement is incredible. A stunning performance.

Razor Blade is dedicated to the memory of Val & Tracey in May 2020. I am not familiar with the relationship between the band and these individuals, but it was clearly close. This is a beautiful song, dripping with emotion both lamenting lost loved ones and the desire to be able to be free to mourn. Jennings and Josh set the mood perfectly throughout, and just over three minutes in the former produces a keyboard solo which leads into the emotional vocal interplay of Josh & Olivia. The closing passage soars with the collective producing a wondrous symphonic rock noise.

This Endless War is written by Olivia, and it is rather prescient in how we all feel (no matter what our opinions on measures taken against Covid this past couple of years have been) with the dawn of Omicron. When will it all end? Once again, Iain Jennings' work is critical to the feel of this piece with a thoughtful piano chord accompanying Olivia's vocals perfectly at the opening passages. When she and the band once again open the noise in the mid- passage, the emotion comes flooding out ? "you have to let it go!" and as ever, Josh on lead guitar provides us with the lilting riffs enabling Olivia and us to do so.

Spirit of Mankind brings us to January 2021. Jennings ponds out his keys to introduce this heavy track, with the rhythm section adding dark lustre. Bryan's lyrics are extremely knowing again. He is spot on that those dark days of lockdown two brought out both the best of us and the worst of us, your reviewer most definitely included. We do take for granted all the beauty of normality, and when Olivia sings that "you stole our precious time, no chance to say a last goodbye, this ends now" she speaks for all of us.

Back in These Arms brings us to July 2021, so-called (prematurely one fears) "freedom day" in the Johnsonian parlance. This is a love song, but not merely to loved ones, but to a love and zest for life, holding one's mother and watching children playing standing in the sun. The drumbeat is pivotal to moving this track along, and the interplay between all the band members produces a foot-tapping, head-nodding ode to the joy of simply being alive and free. Donockley makes a welcome return with his trademark Celtic pipes (oh, to see Iona back!) before the closing passage frees all the senses in a joyful explosion of emotion.

Free To Fly is co-written by the wonderful Jennings and Bryan. It is a short ballad with more of those delicate piano notes and then soaring synth backing Olivia emotionally singing of the winds of change when we can be free to fly. This is quite simply sumptuous, beautiful.

Chris Johnson who replaced Davison takes the helm in co-writing and providing male vocals for The Diamond. The female (main) lead is taken by the extremely talented flautist and vocalist, longstanding collaborator in the band Angela Gordon, who struck me as being quiet up until now on the album. She provided the lead vocals for my personal favourite of White Rainbow, namely The Undertow. She has a wonderful voice, and, despite my admiration and love for Olivia's vocals, I would like to hear more of her. The denouement of the track is a joy, with Angela pounding out a lead vocal and Josh closing with a mournful guitar.

The album closes with Turn Around Slowly, the longest track at just over 12.5 minutes. As a closing piece on such a work should, it ties up all the strands and themes of the album and does so to powerful effect. Indeed, only Josh and Mostly Autumn can combine so many elements of power and soaring emotion. Witness Gordon's lovely short flute solo to a gentle acoustic guitar before Josh packs a vocal punch to a searing rhythm backing, alongside those pipes accompanying Jennings once again lifting his keys to the sky. The close lyrically takes us to the main theme and is as heavy a piece as you will hear all year.

What an album this is. What I love about this is not only the superb musicianship and production, but the way that the lyrics and themes touch me. This is achieved by the band producing a work which connects on the human, and not the political, level. Not for Mostly Autumn a rant. Instead we have a wonderful album which soars in many places, and comments in foreboding dark keys elsewhere, but never fails to forget that the period it comments upon have had a human impact, something forgotten in all the noise and data one sees, hears, and reads about in the media. That is what I mean by this being a true English Folk album, a work which has at its very heart a human and community led vision.

Five stars for Graveyard Star, one of my top three albums of a mightily impressive year for progressive rock music.

lazland | 5/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this MOSTLY AUTUMN review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.