The Spooky Men actually made their name by amusing more than spooking. The problem with humour in music is its shelf-life is about the same as bread – unless of course one sees this loopy male choir live. So Spookmeister Stephen Taberner’s decision to ease this fourth album away from the gag songs was canny. Here, instead, is a chance to relish what an accomplished choir these Blue Mountains blokes have become across the years.
In the early days the humour could happily mask some imprecision, but that is no longer necessary. The accuracy of the harmonies and phrasing, the blended collective timbre and the control of dynamics are now all at a standard more usually associated with classical choral groups. On the Georgian hymns the low frequencies swell and billow like heavy velvet curtains in a breeze, and on the recognisable songs (Tom Waits’ Picture in a Frame, the traditionals John Hardy and Black Is the Colour, and Cohen’s Dance Me To the End of Love) the lyrics leap at you with extraordinary clarity and all the warmth claimed by the album’s title.