"One of the most sensitive indie albums in history"
REVIEW By Kevin Buxton of Kontra Roots
"This latest offering from folk-rock festival favourites The Occasional Orchestra is undoubtedly their best yet, and while Urban Foxes may not offer anything radically new to their oeuvre (if it ain’t broke why fix it) the album most certainly consolidates and refines their well-earned reputation for solid, attractive, catchy tunes, intelligent “road less travelled” lyrics and thunderingly good musicianship. Led by redoubtable and highly gifted songwriter, Darrell Mitchell, this beautifully produced crowdfunded album is a worthy testament to his talent - it’s a great listen - and while the band may occasionally be reminiscent of one or two behemoth folk-rockers of yesteryear (Oysterband in particular) TOO have forged their own very individual sound template and created original music that stands its ground with the best. While the pace of TOO does tend to the mid-tempo and four to the floor (one occasionally yearns for a genuine slow ballad or out and out rocker) that aside there is no lack of variety or mood here. And favourite? The closing ballad-like title track is a gem! Well done lads."
REVIEW By Richard O’Hagan for R2 Magazine
“Every once in a while, a recording comes across the desk of a jaundiced, jaded reviewer which not so much melts their heart as makes them feel profoundly guilty that they've acquired something so good for free. It doesn’t happen very often, but Clever Bones manages that rare feat.
What sets this second outing from the collective fronted by singer and songwriter Darrell Mitchell is sheer uplifting exuberance. Around a central theme of England past and present, Mitchell and company craft thirteen tracks which never fail to delight, even when dealing with serious issues.
Opener ‘Spitfires’ sets the tone, both musically and in the use of a clever historical imagery which even the likes of Paul Heaton would be proud of, as The Occasional Orchestra find a comfortable niche as ‘the Mumford & Sons that you don’t want to punch’. Especially fine is ‘Paint The Truth’, with its juxtaposition of childhood innocence and the horrors of war, whilst ‘Killed By Northern Soul’ could be the most tongue-in-cheek song ever written.
There’s nothing dramatically new and different about what The Occasional Orchestra do, but they just do it better and with more style than most.”
REVIEW from THE CARDIFF TIMES
"Hailing from across the Midlands and Southern Counties, The Occasional Orchestra’s new album Clever Bones is fast becoming one of the favourites in my CD collection. The six-piece band of men and women produce some of the finest Indie Folk music in the UK, and Clever Bones is no exception. Permeated with the band’s usual energy and passion, I’ve had the charmingly distinct album on repeat since first playing it.
You may well have heard of The Occasional Orchestra before: their acoustic vocals regularly feature at gigs across the country, having previously performed at Napton Festival, The Dragonboat Festival and Brackley Fringe Festival. The band released their debut album, 22 Arches, in April 2013, followed by single Paint the Truth in November of the same year. However, this is by no means the musicians’ full résumé. The band’s singer and songwriter Darrell Mitchell and guitarist Jon Taylor have previously worked together in bands Home and Abroad, The Simpletons and Edna. Drummer Kenny Stone has twenty five years’ experience on the kit under his belt, whilst Bass guitarist Kevin Tynan previously worked with London-based band The Provisos.
For their latest album, Darrell collaborated with Jon to pack the band’s new album with vocals on love, heartbreak and passion. Meanwhile, talented vocalist Tracy Feist worked closely with the two songwriters to provide soothing vocal harmonies. Drummer Kenny Stone accompanies the band, giving the indie folk music a distinctive hit of pop.
The remaining two members, whilst being the most recent additions to the band, have helped the ensemble’s music evolve from their previous album, 22 Arches, to what we hear today. While much-respected James Watson took command of the keyboard shortly before the band began recording Clever Bones, Bass Guitarist Kevin Tynan was the most recent to bring his vast musical knowledge to the band.
Without a doubt, this album is definitely not one to miss – full of top-quality and memorable indie folk pop, my personal favourite tracks include ‘Glue’, ‘Killed By Northern Soul’ and ‘Paint The Truth’. Once you start listening, you won’t be able to get them out of your head!"
REVIEW of “CLEVER BONES” BY KEV BUXTON ( Kontra Roots)
"The Occasional Orchestra are the kind of folk rock band you're likely to catch half way down the schedule at your local folk festival and who, after watching, will make you wonder why on earth they aren't considerably nearer the top of the bill. For Darrell Mitchell's very classy outfit have been winning a lot of fans on the festival and club circuit over the last few years, and their latest CD, Clever Bones, demonstrates why: great tunes, excellent ensemble playing, top notch harmony vocals, exuberant delivery, interesting songs with original, often unusual themes, quality lyrics…
OK, they may not be breaking new ground and lack the quirkiness that might give them a higher profile on the hugely competitive UK folk scene, but the playing and musicianship on this engaging, intelligent album is faultless, and this is extremely listenable, enjoyable roots music of a very high order. They knock the spots off a lot of other more well known bands treading the folk rock path, and If you're a fan of the genre, new wave or old, TOO are seriously worth checking out."
REVIEW of “CLEVER BONES” BY DAVID STEWART (THE TRAIL - blog)
"The Occasional Orchestra return with a magnificent collection of thirteen primarily acoustic guitar and bouzouki dominated tracks. It is a joy from beginning to end. TOO’s sound has been filled out more on this record by James Watson’s piano and that adds to the overall delicious soundscape.
Lyrically, Darrell Mitchell has excelled in conjuring up both a nostalgic and romantic view of Britain both in the past and present. From the striking imagery of the WWI Tommy ‘fighting himself awake’ on the misleadingly jaunty Paint the Truth to the scenes of ‘watching Spitfires overhead’ on Spitfires, Mitchell paints a vivid picture of Britain at war.
Domestic and rural daily life is reflected by the regular references to seasons and images of nature and everyday vistas and makes you want to step back and breathe in the world around you as ‘falling leaves will always find somewhere to settle’ in Settle, and ‘time rushes past when life has made us breathless’ in Lines.
The apology to a lover that is Glue tugs at the heartstrings, the tale of the cross-dresser in St Audries doesn’t, but that doesn’t detract from this pop gem.
Tracy Feist and Jon Taylor’s superlative harmonies and counter melodies are more prominent across the entire record than they have ever been before and that is most definitely a good thing. They reach their pinnacle on the standout Settle which rolls along to a lovely piano melody before all the vocals weave together in the majestic chorus.
I sincerely hope the negative sentiment of ‘the chords of songs from long ago assault me from the radio’ from Killed by Northern Soul actually turn into a positive reality in years to come as the ‘where was I when you walked on Peckham Rye’ addictive hook from Queen of the High Rise becomes one of those songs that you hear the milkman whistle whilst he goes about his business.
At the end of my first listen through the whole album, when the final instrumental refrain of Spitfires, after the end of the final track, ended, I was, in the words of Settle, ‘jolted into consciousness again’, and to sum up the excellence of this record, I liked where it had taken me. Subsequent listens have returned me to the imagery of Clever Bones… and that is a good thing!