Reviews Zone

Banter: Heroes (Mrs Casey Records) 29th April 2024



5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)



Much-talked about UK folk band Banter deliver a dozen superb tracks on their fourth album, “Heroes”. The celebrated four-piece UK folk group are fast gaining ground as THE ones to watch on the live folk circuit, as their star steadily ascends and their reputation spreads.

“Heroes” will surely become one of the very best folk albums of the year. The PR rep’ for this album sent an email with the music, which started off with this sentence: “Hope you will enjoy this  – this lot are causing quite a stir right now!” In response to that after first listen, I say: I did enjoy this album very, very much – and I can definitely hear why this lot have caused a stir”. “Heroes” is a sure-fire winner.

Banter is Simon Care on melodeon, Nina Zella on keyboards and lead vocals, Tim Walker on drums, percussion, brass, vocals and dance calling, and Mark Jolley on bass guitar, guitar, fiddle and vocals. This lot are bold and innovative, with a fresh approach to traditional music.

Here they pay tribute to their personal and musical heroes, reworking traditional and contemporary material, but also showcasing original songs. Nina Zella’s glorious voice is up there with the best and classiest of any singer in the folk genre across the decades, for sure – and the chosen material fits her sublime voice like a glove.

The set opens with upbeat song “The Oak and The Ash”, traditional lyrics, and music by Nina Zella – a single released in March. Nina pens the music and lyrics to, “Picking A Ship” and the music to, “The Last Rose Of Summer”, “The Lass Of Richmond Hill”, “Below Below” and “Eve Of New Year Merry” – all four of which have trad’ lyrics.

They cover Pete Coe’s “Rolling Down The Ryburn”, David Francey’s “Torn Screen Door” – Tim takes lead vocal on this one – and John Tams’ “Lay Me Low”, the latter of which has been described by folk legend Martin Simpson as, “Better than the original”. Track 10, “Morgan Rattler” is a jaunty trad’, melodion-led instrumental with a sparkling horn arrangement.

There are three instrumental tracks: “Seneca Square / Soldiers Joy” [trad’], “Morgan Rattler” [trad’] and the one minute and 34 second closer, “Jake’s Jig” – performed solo by English Folk melodeon stalwart Simon Care, as a poignant tribute to his life-long friend and musical collaborator Gareth Turner.

Gareth, who passed away in late 2023, had written the tune early in the duo’s career and dedicated it to his son. It has become one of Banter’s most loved tunes and featured on the band’s debut album, “Yes.”

For what it is worth, my favourites of this classy collection are “The Last Rose Of Summer”, which delivers a beautiful vocal from Nina – and the violin, melodion and piano parts are lovely. And the penultimate track, “Lay Me Low”, which offers up an emotion-soaked ballad, with Nina’s gorgeous vocal and Tim Walker’s melancholic solo trumpet parts such a great fit; to what is, I bet, a real show-stopper live.

My best advice to Nina, Simon, Tim and Mark would be to go buy yourselves a big cabinet with a glass front; in readiness for the clutch of awards likely coming your way soon!

  • Banter tour the UK throughout March and April in the run up to the official album launch at Harmony Voyages’ Costa Festival in Ibiza.


Words: Steve Best



1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’





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