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Subway - Subway CD (album) cover

SUBWAY

Subway

 

Prog Folk

3.76 | 14 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars You can get the quick story of Subway's history on the back side of the record sleeve. American guitarist/songwriter Irvin Mowrey goes to England in the early seventies just because that's what a lot of American artistic-types did back then. He meets Englishman Malcolm Watson who is a journeyman violinist and the two of them end up busking in the subways for spare income. Though the duo attract some interest, Mowrey has to leave the country due to work visa issues and the two land in France where they continue busking, are 'discovered', and end up recording this album. What the album notes don't explain is that the record was limited in production, had basically no promotion and sank like a stone although the duo did attract somewhat of a following opening for Supertramp for a while. Mowrey and Watson continued their nomadic ways through the mid-seventies and eventually released another album under their own names titled (appropriately) 'Busker' along with a film of the same name documenting those days. Mowrey also released a solo record at the end of the decade, but I haven't been able to find much information other than the title ('Continental Drift').

As far as the album goes, this is some pretty interesting and darn good music, especially considering its humble beginnings. You would think a songwriting 12-string acoustic guitarist from the early seventies U.S. and an English violinist might end up making mostly stilted and faux-Renaissance British folk music, but such is really not the case. True, the music is pretty much all acoustic, heavily influenced by English folk (along with hints of Celtic and possibly even a little Welsh). And the singing tends to be very close to what is usually referred to as 'bard-like'. And the first fifteen minutes of the record are dominating by three slow, acoustic, folksy numbers consisting exclusively of Mowrey's vocals and 12- string strumming along with Watson's bowing. "I Am a Child", "Spmg for Sinking Shelters" and "Warm Are You" are very decent folk music to be sure, but certainly not groundbreaking or even particularly progressive.

But after that things improve remarkably, mostly thanks to the addition of some very good percussion including both hand and snare drums and beginning with the haunting and enchanted "All the Good Things". "Enturbulation (Free Form)" goes even further by adding heavy doses of tasty, pysch-leaning electric guitar and I believe even some piano/ keyboards, although quite faint so it's a bit hard to tell for sure. This one is an instrumental and highlights Watson's skill on strings, which may be one of the earlier demonstrations of just how much the depth and range a violin can bring to rock-oriented music. 'Free Form' is unlike anything else on the album, and the one track that most certainly was not performed behind an open violin case at the foot of stairs leading to a subway. This one is a richly arranged and produced studio concoction and gets quite trippy as it lumbers along. "Rosanna of the Roses" is another rather rocking number with crisp snare drumwork and more emphasis on Mowrey's comfortable 12-string strumming.

Despite the fact that Mowrey wrote all the songs, provides all the vocals and presumably plays all the acoustic guitar parts, Watson dominates most of the second half of the album with his evocative violin playing. It's a perfect musical marriage, and one that probably should have yielded much more material than what the two of them managed to record together.

Today Malcolm Watson is based out of Colorado in the United States and is in demand as a motivational speaker and new-age musician, and bills himself as The Barefoot Violinist. His discography includes a half-dozen new new-age, classical and holiday recordings and his 5-member band includes - you guessed it, Irvin Mowrey.

This is a very charming and highly enjoyable album that should appeal to most any progressive, folk or acoustic music fan. It's been reissued on CD and is well worth seeking out. Four out of five stars, missing on the fifth only because the first couple of songs don't distinguish themselves quite as much as the rest of them do. Highly recommended.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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