Take a regular English country band, add a reggae rhythm section, sweet vocal harmonies, blistering brass and scattergun melodeon and you have the phenomena that is Edward II. Throughout the ‘00s they astounded fans with their hyper-active live shows including headlining Glastonbury’s Avalon stage a record four years running.
Splicing dance tunes of old England with the sunny sexy grooves of reggae and lovers’ rock, Edward II transcend superficial notions of “crossover” to forge a truly original synthesis from their far-flung musical roots. Featuring a seven-piece line up that saw melodeon and sax, fiddle and trombone nestling snugly cheek-by-jowl, their repertoire strolled expansively from reworked folk standards like “Wild Mountain Thyme” or “La Russe” to Caribbean classics like Gregory Isaacs “Night Nurse”. They have been long renowned as one of the freshest, funkiest acts on the circuit, they sent crowds from Shetland to Sri Lanka, Brazil to Bangladesh into a jigging, skanking frenzy with their superlative live shows.
Emerging initially as a loose, fluid collective – a self styled “mutant calypso/reggae/African style English dance band” – from the vibrant roots melting-pot of Cheltenham’s Victory Club during the mid-80’s, the band (then called Edward II and the Red Hot Polkas) firmed up personnel and shifted emphasis a few years later, establishing the twin poles of their sound in the Morris-flavoured traditions of rural Oxfordshire, and the dynamic dub-reggae scene of Manchester’s Moss Side. From there, whilst the unique dual core developed into an instantly irresistible signature, the band roamed freely and fruitfully over the expanse of new territory their music opened up, bringing in dashes of jazz, soul, rap, and Celtic dancing styles, all laced with Glenn Latouche’s seductively honeyed lead vocals. By finding the shared dancing pulse in the diverse beats they bring together, EII deliver both a genuinely innovative fusion and a brilliantly redoubled attack.