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Lewis 'Burner' Pugh - Bullets for Bread

  by Julie Cruickshank

published: 4 / 5 / 2024

Lewis 'Burner' Pugh - Bullets for Bread
Label: Shed Load Records
Format: CD


Solo album from The Burner Band’s Lewis ‘Burner’ Pugh tells stories of social and political injustice through an enjoyable melange of folk, bluegrass and co

Lewis ‘Burner’ Pugh from Leeds, England has garnered acclaim for some years as leader of country/folk band The Burner Band, and as a solo artist. His latest offering is ‘Bullets for Bread’, a collection of songs highlighting significant events over the past two centuries which impacted the lives of the working-classes. Opening track ‘Holbeck Moor’ tells of the famous 1936 Battle of Holbeck Moor, a clash between the British Union of Fascists and various anti-fascist demonstrators at Holbeck Moor, Leeds. A lively jig, this track whirls and reels as Lewis describes these events: “When the Blackshirts showed their faces in Leeds/They sent those fascists to their knees”. ‘I am a Union man’ slows the pace, a straightforward ballad speaking of the need to join a workplace union. The military-sounding ‘Violet Gibson (Remember My Name)’ remembers the Irish woman who attempted to shoot Benito Mussolini in 1926: “They locked me away without pardon or grace/When fascism failed they kept me in place/For 30 long years they deemed me insane/But I am Violet Gibson, remember my name”. ‘Featherstone Massacre’ reminds us of the last time in England that guns were turned on workers struggling for a decent wage. This was a strike in 1893 by miners at Featherstone, West Yorkshire, which ended with the loss of the lives of two men. The sombre tone of this ballad emphasises the shock and sadness of this event. ‘The Ballad of Emily Swann’ tells the story of a woman executed for murdering her abusive husband. Beautifully-played pedal steel guitar wraps itself around this sad tale. ’The Biggest Dig’ decries the ruination of the land to build railways: “Desecrating graves of our kinsmen/Sinking in the steel for the money men/Destroying what was ours for this Babylon/Scorching the Earth until we’re long gone”. The music has the sound and feel of a train running along the tracks, overlaid with lively fiddle and pulsing banjo, to emphasise the message of this brief but succinct track. ‘Nae Pasaran’ notable for some fine banjo picking, remembers a group of workers at a Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride, Scotland who refused to carry out repairs on Chilean warplane engines in solidarity with workers in Chile, where General Pinochet had taken power through a violent military coup in 1973. ‘Swinging on a Rope’ states in stark lyrics the dangers of culture wars and divide et empira which keeps the elite in control. Insistent banjo and harmonica rams the message home. ‘Invisible Regiment’ once again employs haunting pedal steel in this sad tale of a shell-shocked ex-soldier. Final track ‘Rich Preacher’, a satisfyingly catchy tune notable for its excellent drumming, gives a side-eye to those who profit from religion: ” The devil looks on for his work is done/Angels are all locked up and the truth is on the run”. From his first solo album ‘Dog Songs’ in 2018, through his work with The Burner Band, Lewis ‘Burner’ Pugh is proving himself a shining talent both musically and lyrically. A master of the banjo and guitar, and a poet with a social conscience, Lewis has in Bullets for Bread produced a fine, accomplished album.

Track Listing:-
1 Holbeck Moor
2 I am a Union Man
3 Violet Gibson (Remember My Name)
4 Featherstone Massacre
5 The Ballad of Emily Swann
6 The Biggest Dig
7 Nae Pasaran
8 Swinging on a Rope
9 Invisible Regiment
10 Rich Preacher

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