Dave Cousins leader of Strawbs, Britain’s most successful international progressive folk-rock band, released his long awaited autobiography Exorcising Ghosts:Strawbs and Other Lives in September 2014.
In the USA and Canada Strawbs sold more records per head of population than in any other country. In the USA the band can boast seven consecutive albums in the Billboard Top 200. The band’s most successful album, Hero And Heroine was certified gold in Canada many years ago, but since its re-release on CD in the late 1990s the album has sold over 20,000 copies in Canada alone – an extraordinary figure.
Dave Cousins, who leads the group, has been described by the influential All Music Guide as: “the most talented Dylan influenced songwriter to come out of England”. Strawbs are often mentioned in the same breath as progressive rock bands like Yes, King Crimson, and the Moody Blues. It is well documented that Rick Wakeman left Strawbs for Yes, but he returned to join Dave Cousins onstage at the band’s 40th Anniversary Celebration.
Strawbs have a unique component in their intricate prog-rock music – they emerged out of the British Folk Movement of the mid-1960s. The band started life as the Strawberry Hill Boys playing bluegrass, before moving into the mainstream by making the first Strawbs album, All Our Own Work, with Sandy Denny in 1967, a full year before she recorded her first album with Fairport Convention. The album attracted the attention of A&M Records in Hollywood who signed Strawbs as their first British band.
Strawbs has a devoted fan base that continues to grow on the strength of albums like Grave New World, Bursting At The Seams, Hero And Heroine, and Ghosts, and classic songs such as Lay Down, A Glimpse Of Heaven, and Benedictus.
Acoustic Strawbs comprise David Cousins, along with lead guitarist Dave Lambert, and the astonishingly versatile Chas Cronk, who together formed the front-line of the classic 1970s line-up of Strawbs.
Acoustic Strawbs shows receive rave reviews:
“The Strawbs moved from folkier days to a lush, stately and mellotron-dominated sound, with similarities to Yes, King Crimson and the Moody Blues. They wrote more compelling songs than the former two and possessed more lyrical/musical substance than the latter.” (Ken Barnes/Rolling Stone 1974)
“Carefully selecting their repertoire from less than obvious sources they invest the rarely performed material with considerable energy and thoughtful arrangements.”
(Record Collector – 2003)
“Unlike many groups that are past their commercial prime and churn out inferior, dispirited versions of the hits from their glory days, the Acoustic Strawbs stand out as a band that performs their old material with passion and precision. Furthermore, they have broken new ground by harnessing the power of their electric incarnation in an acoustic setting.” (Chicago Tribune – May 2003)
“Hearing the brilliant Strawbs [at the Edmonton Folk Festival] was like a tutorial in UK folk music from the past 40 years. (Edmonton Sun – August 2004)
“Like a Ray Davies steeped in Arthurian folklore and rustic reverie, David Cousins’ visionary talents are to the fore conjuring up a mythical canvas of Albion awakening.”
(Uncut – September 2008)
“Tell me what you see in me revealed it to be a virtual blueprint for the harmonies and arrangements of the entire Styx catalogue. Oh how she changed, similarly, sounded like a vocal model for latter day bands like Fleet Foxes.”
(Schenectady Times Union – September 2010)
“The songwriting was phenomenal, and the way the trio embellished sublime melodies with supreme harmonies and incredible instrumentation made their performance unforgettable. In fact, I repeatedly thought “music just isn’t this good anymore”.”
(Philadelphia Examiner – September 2011)
“Dave Cousins shows himself as a brilliant and original songwriter….” (Classic Rock – September 2012)
“From beginning to end, this veteran group put to shame bands a third their age with the majesty of their arrangements, the craftsmanship of their tunes and lyrics, which remain as socially relevant as they were decades ago. The band’s vocal harmonies at this stage of their career are tighter and soar higher than anything Crosby, Stills and Nash ever did.” (New York Music Daily – September 2012)
“Spellbinding guitar interplay, with countless alternative tunings to create the drone effect so evident in The Strawbs’ music, was the hallmark of an evening which provided far more than a dose of nostalgia. Whether you lean towards the folk or the prog it matters little . . . plugged in or not, the Strawbs are the juiciest, tastiest fruit you’re ever likely to hear.” (Swndon Echo – October 2014)