Being overearnest is an occupational hazard for folkies, but one that doesn’t afflict Ben Parker and David Berkeley. The pair are accomplished musicians (from London and Santa Fe respectively) but believe a little theatre doesn’t go amiss, dressing like extras from Gangs of New York and casting themselves as vagrants borne on the tides of late 19th-century America. Their offbeat name is borrowed from a famously unsinkable raft made from flotsam.

The conceit – a shaggy dog tale of the steampunk era – wouldn’t work if the music didn’t, but Parker and Berkeley prove equal to the task. Their songs arrive on a wave of intricate finger-picked guitars, with flourishes of fiddle and brass, and seamless vocal harmonies that carry a tang of Simon and Garfunkel. Their stories are of sea voyages, betrayal and desolation, told with a narrator’s cadence: “You wore a red dress, it must have been July.” California imagines them as gold rush pioneers, Cobbler’s Hill is a forlorn love call and Morning Fields, serenaded by Nickel Creek’s fiddler, revels in nature’s beauty. Lightly worn (see video for The Line Between), but a more coherent concept album you’ll be pushed to find.

Watch the video for Son of Town Hall’s The Line Between.


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