“One of the bands I have most enjoyed reviewing for Albion is Mr Love & Justice, and this new album is another fantastic collection. Steve Cox's songs are brilliant slices of contemporary electric folk-rock; tracks like The Shilling Folk, We Raise the Watchword, and Sunday Morning Sunset Town are all brilliantly observed and superbly performed ,with an expanded recording line-up of Matthew Wood on bass, Marcus De 'Freitas and Nick Weaver on guitars, Brendan Hamley on drums, and Rob Beckinsale on piano accordion. Their superb musical abilities bring out the best in the songs.”
- James Turner
“The Swindon based band Mr Love & Justice has recorded 13 new original tracks for their fifth album “Watchword”. Besides singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Steve Cox the band features Marcus de Freitas (guitars, vocals, string and brass arrangements), NickWeaver (guitars, vocals), Rob Beckinsale (keyboards, accordion), the two bass players Matt Wood and Mark Stevenson, as well as a great rhythm section with drummer Brendan Hamley and the two percussion players Trevor Smith and Nick Ruddle.
The tender instrumental "Trees" starts the musical journey with Cox’ beautiful guitar playing, supported by the fine rhythm of the drums. Cox is a fine guitar player and has a beautiful voice. The CD continues with the nostalgic song "The Shilling Folk" with Stevenson’s driving bass, the rhythmic and melodic Pop hymn "This World" as well as the folky "We raise the Watchword", spiced with an intoxicating rhythm, Beckinsale’s virtuoso accordion playing and wonderful choir singing. The Canadian songwriter David Celia plays guitars, percussion and harmonica on "The Bottleneck Song" and adds his voice to the harmony choir. De Freitas’ wailing slide guitar, harmonica and the melancholic singing dominate this Americana. Guest musician David Headon delivers stunning acoustic guitar and bass playing on "Sunday Morning, Sunset Town". De Freitas works a lot with synthesizer and thus creates a symphonic sound with strings, brass and woodwinds. My favourites though are the acoustic songs like "We, the Chartists". Brilliant playing together of acoustic, electric and slide guitar as well as the shuffling rhythm and Freitas’ Banjitar, a six string instrument not guitar not banjo, accompany the hypnotic singing. Guest keyboarder Joan Besen, Freitas on synthesizer and Cox on guitar, bass and drums perform the psychedelic rock of "Blood & Oil" and Barry Andrews treats the keys on the final instrumental track "East".
Mr Love & Justice’s new album offers a first class semi acoustic fusion of folk, rock and pop. Their music stands out with extraordinary harmonic vocals, excellent arrangements and great musical accompaniment.”
- Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup
“Watchword, the latest album from Swindon band Mr Love & Justice is 1960s-esque, simplistic-yet-effective, folk pop. Stand-out track We, The Chartists, which has a Wicker Man feeling to it. Never Know Why is another sterling effort.
Mr Love & Justice — who are named after a Colin McInnes novel — wanted to create something that sounded like the good old days and in this album they have. Nostalgic folk music is increasing in popularity. Mr Love & Justice are a band that deserves more recognition.”
- John G. Fagan
“Historical, socio-political, agri-folk pop does not form a massive section in the local music shops, but if Watchword, the latest album from Mr Love and Justice, is anything to go by, it’s a genre that deserves much more attention. On the surface many of the songs, such as The Shilling Folk, seem to belong to a slightly twee pastoral dreamtime, a place of maypoles and markets, cow byres and barns. A place that seems to only exist in the back catalogue of the likes of Fairport Convention, the books of Richard Jeffries or Thomas Hardy and the rose tinted memory of grandparents. But on closer inspection you soon realise that there is a lot more going on here than Andy Warhol’s oft misquoted adage of being “farmers for fifteen minutes.”
When the darker underbelly of the songs are examined you find a more serious topics being examined, topics that are normally found on albums by The Oysterband, Chumbawamba or The Men They Couldn’t Hang. It becomes obvious that song writer Steve Cox is not only musically astute but also historically and politically aware, covering subjects relating to the frictions between the old agricultural based society and the advance of Industrialisation. The Chartist movement and the Tolpuddle Martyrs may not seem like the most immediate subjects for songs but this album works, by god it works!
It certainly helps that these normally dusty subject matters are given brilliant musical vehicles to carry them along. Dovetailing traditional folk structures with sumptuous, accessible and slightly retro, pop sounds, this unlikely pairing of genres pays dividends. Some of the vocal arrangements could have come straight off of The Byrds seminal album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, whereas Blood and Oil has the dark urgency of a Midnight Oil protest song. The album has a few numbers that seem more reflective and personal, such as Never Know Why and Sunday Morning, Sunset Town but these don’t distract from the fact that this is more or less a concept album…just when you thought that it was safe! But this is no flamboyant prog-odyssey. It’s a lean and succinct musical message about this country’s past.
With the great and good of the local (and not so local) scene making up the ranks and adorned with Ken White artwork, this is a local album but with a global message. It may start out as just an album of good music but hopefully it might make a few of you reach for the history books to undercover the bigger stories being referenced here. Learning was never this much pleasure when I was at school.”
“Watchword by Mr Love and Justice
Out on Homeground Records at www.mrloveandjustice.com Swindon indie pop folk band Mr Love and Justice are launching their latest album, Watchword, at The Vic in Old Town on October 19. The watchword literally of this band, led by Steve Cox, is their essential English quality, with an early Beatles influence and beautifully penned songs that stay in the mind.
The CD is top and tailed by instrumentals kicking off with Trees, an hypnotic piece of pretty guitar, jazzy drums and illustrious keyboards.
The Shilling Folk has some stunning close harmonies and is pure Mr Love and Justice as it has that village folk feel to it, with a box drum tom tom beat and lilting melody that conjures up the days of yore.
This World is a Dylanesque tune, a poem set to music. It has a slower pace and some lovely guitar which compliments rather than overpowers the vocals. The title track We Raise The Watchword is a sway along song with a catchy hook, sunny chorus and glorious fade out ending.
The whole album is well rounded and mixes past, present and future in a melodic recipe of folk, pop and rock.
Everything is a happy song with warm vocals over rock guitar and a lush guitar solo to finish. The Bottleneck Song is a shorter, bluesy number with bite and Sunday Morning, Sunset Town is a poignant track sung in minor key with simple backing vocals and great echo. The song paints a soundscape with some haunting brass, again a cracking guitar solo and a psychedelic ending that fades into a police siren.
Never Know Why has an Americana feel, moving away from the familiar English folk. It has a blues streak and angel choir backing while We Are Chartist is strong track, foreboding and defiant. The name reminds me of my history A-level about Parliamentary reforms and is just as scary. The backing vocals are reminiscent of a Gregorian chant and the powerful track ends in a keyboards finale fade.
Blood And Oil has a guitar backbone and rock guitar headline with some intricate and exciting riffs while Build A Fire is a story song with a throbbing drum beat. Driving Home conjures up the Maypole on the green effect but with a rocky beat at the heart - and it really works.
The CD ends on another instrumental with the sounds of India wafting across sunbaked, white walled streets. It has the Beatles influence again but this time it is the Maharishi years, and the sounds of the sitar. This corker of an album has a number of guest artist including Barry Andrews from XTC, Canadian singer/songwriter David Celia, Joan Besen from Prairie Oyster, David Headon from Invisible Inc, along with Swindon’s Rob Beckinsale, Nick Weaver, Brendan Hamley and Matt Wood.”
- Flicky Harrison
“I suspect I’m not alone in wondering why music shops have never included a provincial, socio-political, agrarian, folk-pop category. I am? Well please yourselves. However, with the release of the Mr Love and Justice’s glorious Watchword album, HMV will surely soon bow under the pressure. Their music is infectious, lyrically astute, with Byrds-esque harmonies and a definite rural feel, but it’s much more than Andy Warhol’s, oft misquoted, adage about being, “farmers for fifteen minutes.” Catch them live and pick up this highly recommended album at the launch party at the Victoria on Monday.”
- Dave Franklin