Let me start by saying that I have thought long and hard about posting Albums Of 2014 so early in the year - but I know what I like and I like what I know (that sounds vaguely familiar in a Prog sort of way) - so for Albums that I know are going to make the list, well why not get them in early to give everyone an opportunity to seek out and get a few months more enjoyment if they feel so inclined as to invest
Oysterband have come a long way since their inception as the Oyster Ceilidh Band in 1980.
The boys have traveled all over the world and released over 25 albums in their 34 year history.
From the early albums of political leanings to the subsequent albums of a more gentle and mature nature, the Oysters have always been a great live and albums band and every album has been worthy of a place in anyone's collection.
In 2013, multi-instrumentalist and bass player Ray Cooper decided to leave and concentrate on a solo career.
pic courtesy of Ray Cooper
Coming off a two year period where the Oysterband recorded and toured a new album with June Tabor - which was to be Ray's last album with the band - the band won even more plaudits and awards for the Ragged Kingdom album.
Often when a major member leaves the band, the rest of the group struggle to find the magic again.
So, Oysterband buried themselves away to work on the follow up to their last 'band' album, The Oxford Girl & Other Stories, which was an album of reinterpretations of songs from earlier releases, released in 2008.
With their producer Al Scott now performing bass duties they set about recording what was to become Diamonds On The Water.
So what would they sound like without Ray?
Oysterband have come back even stronger than ever and Ray's departure has re-energised the band both in songwriting and performance.
From the a capella opening of A Clown's Heart to the gorgeous closing Like A Swimmer In The Ocean the band have released their best album yet!
They have looked to nature and travel for many of the songs on the album including The Wilderness.
With the inclusion of female vocalist Rowan Godel on tracks like Lay Your Dreams Down Gently the band add another dimension to their fantastic harmonies as can be seen below with John Jones' side project The Reluctant Ramblers with the song No Ordinary Girl which also appears on the album.
This album blows away the image of the 'finger in the ear' folk tunes and highlights some of the best contemporary songwriting from any artists out there today.
pic courtesy of folkradio.com
You won't find any boisterous outings like Blood Wedding or the anti Thatcher anthems of The Shouting End Of Life. But what you will find is an album of gentle persuasion and a band who are obviously happy in their own skin.
John Jones' voice is as beautiful as ever and the instrumentation and arrangements put together by Alan Prosser, Ian Telfer, Dil Davies, Al Scott and JJ are uplifting and subtle as anything they've ever produced.
I have seen Oysterband on many, many occasions and they have matured into a seriously brilliant band which 'Rise Above' all genres of music. So if you think this is just music for folkies and people in Arran jumpers, then think again. This is quality music made by a band who are on the top of their game.
pic courtesy of theguardian.com
You could do a lot worse than to use Diamonds on The water as your starting point if you've never heard Oysterband before, then work your way backwards from here and you'll find a wealth of great music awaiting your discovery.
Twitter - @oysterband1