Bob Pegg - The Last Wolf [Talking Elephant - 2018]As many readers will know Bob Pegg along with his wife Carole were well established figures on the UK folk circuit, when in 1969 they began working with Ashley Hutchings who had left Fairport Convention to form his own project. This collaboration was sadly short lived and provided no recordings, and whilst Hutchings went off to found Steeleye Span, Bob and Carole formed the band Mr Fox. After two excellent but underappreciated albums Mr Fox split, Carole enjoyed a brief solo career and Bob went on to record two albums with Nick Strutt and followed that up with a solo album of his own in 1975, Ancient Maps. After that Pegg moved into composing for stage and screen and became an author.
In 1996 Bob Pegg returned to his first love, folk music and recorded the album, The Last Wolf. Reissued by Talking Elephant, The Last Wolf features the original 12 track album, however it has been augmented by one additional studio track, ‘The Chapleton Hawk’ and four live recordings of tracks from the album.
Initial thoughts are that Bob’s voice has changed over the years, sounding deeper and more world weary, however it suits him, and he sounds like a man reborn. The production is crisp, and I am somewhat reminded of Donovan’s Sutras album which was also recorded after a long layoff, both men returned with a strong selection of songs and produced an album that harked back to their own past, yet was very much of its time.
Favourite tracks include the rather fabulous ‘The Stone Head’, a Folk Horror-esque tale of the carved stone head of a god in the village of Hainworth, near Bradford to which the locals make tribute. ‘The Wildwood Song’ is another that has a decidedly Folk Horror feel to it. The song it is claimed was written for those who would love to see a return of the Northern Forest of Britain, Caledon, and the animals that used to inhabit it. These animals included the bear and most appropriately the wolf. Christine McClenaghan’s voice takes centre stage on ‘The Mermaid’ a beautiful yet sad tale of a mermaid who has lost her love. The only musical accompaniment to Christine’s beautiful voice is some fairly subtle flute playing that works perfectly to create the perfect atmosphere. The album’s title track ‘The Last Wolf’ takes on the perspective of an elderly wolf (perhaps the last of his kind) remembering the golden days of his youth before his death. This one is the perfect accompanying piece to the aforementioned ‘The Wildwood Song’. The album’s original closer was Fiddler’s Cross, which is Bob’s rather lovely take on the classic tale of blues man Robert Johnson, who it was alleged went down to the crossroads to exchange his soul for his guitar craft. Bob supplants this story to the Yorkshire Dales and switches the guitar for the fiddle.
The bonus studio track, ‘The Chapeltown Hawk’ is a great addition to the album, it fits perfectly alongside the original material. The song features some fine guitar work and some lovely flute playing. The four live tracks are interesting as they allow us to hear Bob performing them live around the time of the album’s release, he sounds at ease and as though he is enjoying every moment of it and it’s a pleasure to hear that.
Overall this is a pleasant acoustic folk album. It doesn’t sit too far from Bob’s early 1970s work with Mr Fox. The songcraft is top drawer and Bob sounds like he’s never been away from the folk music scene. If you love those classic early 1970s albums by Steeleye Span, and Fairport Convention then you’ll most likely enjoy The Last Wolf. I certainly did.Darren Charles