Frank Turner – “England Keep My Bones”

Anyone who’s familiar with Winchester’s Frank Turner and his intense touring habits knows that he is never in one place for too long, not even his own home. Frank Turner (and his backing band The Sleeping Souls) has been touring solo for a few years now and manages to create acoustic folk-punk songs that cut the crap and get to the core of life and love.

People that know his music are avid followers, and people that aren’t usually have a different outlook after hearing him. Yes, he’s just that good! Frank Turner’s incredibly popular third album Poetry of the Deed sang songs of life’s little appreciations, constantly being on the road and the lessons learned from seeing the countries of the world. England Keep My Bones is album number four and focuses almost oppositely on Frank’s resounding love for his home and England’s heritage, but at the same time manages to keep that acoustic punk-rock spark.

Album opener Eulogy triumphantly bursts out with a punk attitude after a horn intro and gets the album started on a high with its punk-style lyrics “But on the day I die I’ll say “At least I fucking tried!” and that’s the only eulogy I need.” Peggy Sang the Blues is a song about Frank’s grandmother visiting him in a dream, but also cleverly hides punk style lyrics about playing poker in heaven and giving him sound advice on life around a blues style sound, as the title suggests. The good vibes keep coming hard and fast when I Still Believe from Frank’s latest EP Rock & Roll kicks in with its tribute to different generations of musical influences and how they’ve all helped bring people together, and creates a massive sing-along anthem.

Rivers is another song about the life of a punk-rock troubadour and traces paths across England that Frank has travelled before eventually returning home, and first single I Am Disappeared harks back to his earlier material and sings about dreams of Bob Dylan and spontaneous travelling. English Curse throws a curveball to the album – it’s an entirely acapella song about how William II died in the New Forest after being shot with an arrow by Walter Tyrell in 1100. While it’s a beautifully crafted bit of sung poetry, it also shows Frank Turner indulging his heritage and the history of his home on England Keep My Bones.

If I Ever Stray lightens the tone again with its joyful country styling and makes a promise to his friends that “If I ever stray from the path I follow, take me down to the English channel, throw me in where the water is shallow and then drag me back to shore” showing that even though Frank travels, he never forgets who his friends are. Wessex Boy carries on the theme of his friends and home through Frank singing about Winchester and all his fond memories of the places he went, and even mentions the Railway Inn where he played his earlier shows and occasionally still does whenever he’s back for long enough. Wessex Boy also manages to paint a clear picture of Frank Turner’s roots and what inspired him to start making music, and it’s clear from the passion he sings this song with how important his roots are to him.

Nights Become Days’ melody breaks up the pace of the album nicely before Redemption’s piano led symphony creeps through and builds into something entirely different and heavier. Album closer Glory Hallelujah might seem anti-religious, proclaiming “There never was no God”, but looking deeper I believe the message is that people should live to appreciate everything they have while they have it before they die. It’s not so much anti-religious as it is life appreciating.

The extra three songs available on the deluxe version of England Keep My Bones include Song for Eva Mae which is a melodic acoustic song about his Goddaughter, Wanderlust which is more of a country style song and Balthazar, Impresario which reminds me of Journey of the Magi from Poetry of the Deed. Though they don’t really add to or fit in with the theme of England Keep My Bones much, which is probably why they’re extras on the deluxe version, but any fans of Frank’s solo acoustic numbers will like these little extras a lot.

While it may not have the same immediate life-affirming attitude that made Poetry of the Deed so popular, England Keep My Bones adds a lot to Frank Turner’s arsenal and reaffirms your faith in England, reminding people of the pride we should have in the history and tradition of our country. Another great album from one of the last honest musicians in the world.

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