Offa Rex: A fateful evocation of British folk-rock
The Queen of Hearts
As befits a band named after an early 19th-century Russian revolutionary group, Portland, Oregon’s The Decemberists have a strong sense of history. Indeed their Shankill Butchers was one of the better songs inspired by the Troubles. And Olivia Chaney has impressed with her take on English traditional song. Together, as Offa Rex, they evoke the halcyon days of British folk-rock almost 50 year ago. Think Albion Dance Band/Steeleye Span/Anne Briggs, with a dollop of Martin Carthy, Ewan McColl and June Tabor thrown in. All songs, plus or minus, are staples of the English canon and they are treated with respect – arguably too much. The Title track, The Gardener, Flash Company and Bonny May fare best. Chaney’s voice lacks little in purity but more nuance is required. Colin Meloy, however, is tone deaf in his singing of the Blackleg Miner – a rare misstep by him.