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Stick in the Wheel performing Endurance Soundly Caged on stage during the accompanying tour.

Endurance Soundly Caged – Stick in the Wheel, a review

Stick in the Wheel capture their live sound in a bottle. Six tracks recorded as a four-piece, live at live at Eastcote Studios, demonstrate what they're capable of.

Release Date
2 December 2022
Endurance Soundly Caged - Stick in the Wheel
There’s nothing spare anywhere on this release; it’s phenomenally honest stuff, beautifully produced and performed, and surely achieves their intention to capture their live energy. 

Whenever a non-folky asks me for folk recommendations, I have a well-rehearsed list which varies a little year-to-year, but has unfailingly included Stick in the Wheel ever since I first heard ‘Bedlam’ on a BBC2 Folk Awards album. 

In a Venn diagram where folk, trance, punk, and rock meet, Stick in the Wheel have a unique, and instantly identifiable sound. Led by Nicola Kearey’s unaffected, honest vocals and underpinned by Ian Carter’s dobro playing, their work reinterprets traditional songs and forms. Their live performances are powerful events which, until now, have often presented a different feel than their studio releases.

Endurance Soundly Caged is a six-track limited release, recorded live at Eastcote Studios. With the addition of Siân Monaghan on drums and George Hoyle on bass, they have achieved their aim of capturing the impact of their stage shows.

The energy of the live band we put together has such a real, vital connection – which only a few people got a chance to see live – so we decided to take them into Eastcote to get it down on tape.

Ian Carter, Stick in the Wheel

The first track, ‘Bedlam’, is an almost jolly, catchy take on the pretty grim ‘Boys of Bedlam’ [Roud 16366]. Like all but one track on this album, strong yet spare percussion leads an insistent rhythm that drives it along, supporting the famous singalong chorus and changes of pace.

In ‘White Copper Alley’ [aka ‘The Lass of London City’ – Roud 1554] a twist to the lyrics with which I am most familiar switches the song’s point of view to that of ‘the lass’ herself. The topic – the oldest profession – has not changed, but now it’s a song sung by a woman in charge of her decisions, rather than a young rake who sees himself as a victim.

‘Robot’ is a haunting, sparse, engaging narration of a short story by Tom Cox. If I experienced this at a Hawkwind concert, it wouldn’t be out of place. Here though, right at the bleeding edge of what I’d normally be prepared to call ‘folk’, it’s simply a powerful piece that I have enjoyed listening to again and again.

‘As I Roved Out’ [Roud 3479] moves somewhere into trippy trance territory; a powerful synth sequence, drums and drone support Nicola’s vocals as she switches between singing, reciting and vocoder. The end result is something much more complex and involving than one would ever expect from a song that starts with the folk trope, “As I roved out on a bright May morning”.

‘Villon Song’ powers along, driven – almost a rap – with drums and guitar providing a wall of sound behind the lyrics, which, although sung in underworld slang from late 1800s, London could just as well be a current patois that ‘we’ just aren’t supposed to understand. And perhaps that’s the point: the words sound familiar, yet distant. There’s a fascinating article about this, which you can read here.

The short final track, ‘Gold so Red’ (‘Corpus Christi Carol’) has a lighter, airier feel than the preceding tracks, quickly leading into an extended outro featuring Ian Carter’s guitar.

There’s nothing spare anywhere on this release; it’s phenomenally honest stuff, beautifully produced and performed, and surely achieves their intention to capture their live energy. 

Endurance Soundly Caged is released on 2 December 2022. It can be ordered on CD and limited edition red vinyl from the band’s Bandcamp page.