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Arts & Entertainment

Peter Stenshoel's album of the week -- Boiled in Lead

Kevin Ferguson

Full disclosure dictates I point out David Stenshoel, my oldest brother, is a longtime fiddler with Boiled in Lead, but these guys need no publicity on my part. They've made a global name for themselves with aficionados of freshly-minted folk traditions. 

When Drew Miller first approached David about forming BiL, I understand he described it as a combination of Steeleye Span and Throbbing Gristle. In other words, British folk rock meets U.K. weird industrial noise rock. This rare first LP ended up being mostly a hard-edged Celtic romp, with a spirited take on the Yardbirds' hit, Over Under Sideways Down. And true to the Throbbing Gristle reference, sonic exploration has always been part of their presentation.

Their grisly name comes from Leyden's ballad of "Lord Soulis" as recounted in Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain. The Man who was Boiled in Lead is on this first wax effort. After its 1985 release, changes in personnel resulted in various foci, including Baltic, Turkish, African, Klezmer, and Hungarian tunes, speculative fiction based lyrics, and poetic lurches into a kind of unconscious stew.

Throughout it all, their bardic, Sephardic, bombastic wit has, each Saint Patrick's day, graced the wild revelry of Minnesotans champing at the bit for Spring's return, for Boiled in Lead is the main attraction at First Avenue, the storied club that Prince put on the national map. And the seasonal functionality of BiL is real. There is something a bit ancient, atavistic, and druidic about them. They inspire frenzied free-form dance, more punk in its expression than Deadhead-ish. But their appeal is not just driven by the sweet bird of youth. State Fair appearances also inspire small kids to strut and elders to pay rapt attention.

In what I consider a kind of poetic consummation, Boiled in Lead's name (on a Folk Roots magazine) is part of the collage cover on Burning Bright: The Ashley Hutchings Story. Hutchings founded Steeleye Span (and Fairport Convention and the Albion Band) and the box set chronicles the "Guv-nor of Folk Rock's" career. I like to think this was an intentional "hail fellows well met" from across the pond.

I close with a couple great live videos. Silver Carp is from their most recent CD, and Cunovo Oro is a Macedonian tune in the wickedly delicious time signature of 7/8. Here they are: