by Crucible

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Crucible are a young band singing and playing traditional music with a strong English flavour that springs from living, working and playing together in the vibrant traditional music scene of Sheffield.

Crucible are a young band with strong roots in English traditional song and dance. The members of the band play and dance Morris and also play in two ceilidh bands, Hekety and Jabadaw, who both have reputations as two of the most exciting bands on the circuit. Crucible was set up as a stage band to concentrate on singing. They play and sing with a confidence that comes from deep knowledge and with all the attack that comes from a young band. This band are playing on all the main festival stages and already have done 2 Canadian tours and trips to continental Europe.

Bold Poachers
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From Night til Morn
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Harvest Song
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The Devil and The Farmers Wife
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The Engagement Set
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Blackbird/Black Nag
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Changelings Lullaby
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Sherborne Jig/Queens Delight
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Poor Mans Labours
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The Second of August
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Evening Hymn
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Dai Woosnam

Dai Woosnam


There is one crop that never fails.Yes my tomatoes can fail one year, my aubergines the next. Indeed sometimes a crop can fail a WHOLE COUNTRY, as potatoes did 150 years ago across the Irish Sea.

But the one crop that always comes up fresh year-after-year are new folk bands and soloists. True, some of them produce work that is breathtakingly derivative, but often that is to be expected when starting off.

And with Crucible, a foursome based in Sheffield, Northern England, we have some new kids on the block who arrive with their very own sound. What do I mean by that? After all, don't they play the conventional folk instruments and cover material that is in the main familiar to all true fans of the British Folk Tradition?

Yes, that is undeniable. But equally incontrovertible is the fact that they survived my usual litmus paper test: viz. the question that I always pose is, �who do they remind me of?� And the truthful answer here is NOBODY.

It is a nice varied selection of songs and tunes. Push me for a favourite track and I would say Gavin Davenport's assured vocals on a lesser known version of �Poor Man's Labour� : this also features fine melodeon playing from Richard Arrowsmith. I say �lesser known�: truth is it has a different tune to the one I am familiar with! They have married the words to the Cuckoo's Nest morris tune, and a marriage made in heaven it is.

But I fancy were they a pop group and looking to release a single from the album, then the real crowd-pleaser would be �Evening Hymn�, an American Shape Note Hymn. This is SO infectious! And it shows off all four voices, (the two guys and Helena Reynolds and Jess Arrowsmith).

Both women have pleasant light soprano voices and are persuasive fiddle players (Helena also plays the Border Pipes with verve). And then there is Gavin's competent guitar adding another layer to the mix: but it is Richard's outstanding melodeon that sort of sets the imprimatur on the whole Crucible sound.

A pl


Keith Kendrick

Wow! It really is so difficult, when given a CD to review that moves and excites so much, to avoid going completely O.TT. with the superlatives - so I will try very hard .....

The fact is that this first offering from Crucible (Gavin Davenport, Helena Reynolds and Jess and Richard Arrowsmith), is an example to anyone and everyone, young and old, who wishes to get involved in the interpretation of traditional English music and keep it real and keep it cool!. Their combined instrumental and singing skills are nothing short of stunning. Their arrangement ideas and their cohesion in the executing thereof belies their frightening youthfulness!

Instruments include: Fiddles, Squeezeboxes, Pipes and Guitar.

They all take lead vocal roles with panache and all have very distinctive individual voices, but wait till you hear them all together! Whether they are singing or playing or indeed both at the same time, if I was asked for one word to describe their sound it would be vibrant! and thats without electric guitars, keyboards, drums and bass - thanks guys!

Some of the styles and textures in evidence here do tend to remind me of a variety of the earlier revival performers (some still with us and some sadly, not), who it has to be said provided the newer and/or younger performers with the blue print from which to develop and hone the craft. Crucible are clearly conscious and refreshingly respectful of all this (One of the advantages of being born to parents who have lived through it all and understood it) but are also careful not to copy, but more to let influence show through and at the same time be ultimately creative in their general approach.

Much has been said about the Apprenticeship thing, levelled at the ever advancing number of new kids on the block over the last ten years -? some of it sense and some of it clap-trap, but whatever your age or experience, to my mind its whether you get it or not that ultimately validates your place in a scene like the Folk World and keeps you there! This band most definitely get it!

To draw attention to any particular tracks would be to imply that there are some items markedly better than others not so, there is plenty of light and shade, good taste, expertise and clued in performance here, but no dross!

Yes - they get it alright. Want to hear the testimony? - buy the CD.

Folk Northwest

Derek �Giff� Gifford

Crucible are Jess and Richard Arrowsmith, Helena Reynolds and Gavin Davenport and hail from the Sheffield area. They are a young band with their roots firmly planted (pun intended!) in English traditional song and dance. They play and dance Morris and are involved in two ceilidh bands.

So much for a brief background I hear you say, but what about them? Well, actually they're pretty damn good!

The opening track 'Bold Poachers' put me in mind of Maddy Prior Band meets Carl and Jane! The songs, which include such gems as 'The Devil and the Farmer's Wife', 'The Second of August' and 'Poor Man's Labour', are subtly and expertly accompanied with some imaginative vocal and musical arrangements.

Their own composition 'Changeling's Lullaby', from which the CD's title is taken, is well composed and performed unaccompanied by Jess. 'Harvest Song' another acapella number is equally well performed with some super three part harmonies being explored. In fact their harmony singing throughout is spot on, particularly in the rounds.

The tunes reflect their obvious professionalism on their respective instruments which include fiddles, melodeons, concertina, border pipes and guitar. My only quibble, and probably the only thing I can find to criticise, with some of the tunes is that they do 'go on a bit' in places; especially 'The Engagement Set' which, for me at least is, a tad too repetitive.

Overall, a smashing debut album and a must for all you traddies out there.

This band should go far - in fact they are - they're gigging in Canada next year!

CD available (by cheque) from WildGoose, May Cottage, Wherwell, Hants. SP11 7JS and (by credit card) Musikfolk Ltd,

The Living Tradition

Alan Rose

Crucible are two young couples currently coming out of Sheffield, probably to a folk club near you. Their vocal and instrumental skills enable them to deliver traditional music and song from all corners of the folk spectrum, and they explore a wide variety of vocal and instrumental combinations with great success. Basically, the gentlemen (Richard Arrowsmith and Gavin Davenport) play squeezeboxes and guitar while the ladies (Jess Arrowsmith and Helena Reynolds) play fiddles and border pipes, and all four have obviously spent the last few years doing little else...

Most of the 13 tracks are song?based, and the majority of those songs come from the English Tradition apart from a mighty Sacred Harp hymn, a similar Simon Heywood re?working of Psalm 29 and the title track, written within the band in a traditional style. With four individual and distinctive voices to work with, Crucible are able to ring countless changes from solo unaccompanied to four?part harmony, and given their undeniable instrumental virtuosity, its safe to say that the world is their oyster. Changeling is an exciting and satisfying debut from a young quartet steeped in The Tradition up to their ears and beyond. Catch them if you can, they should go far.

Pete Fyfe

Its rather nice to see the resurgence of interest in all things English for hot on the heels of Dr Faustus comes Crucible with their debut release. The first two tracks of the album The Bold Poachers and From Night til Morn evoke memories of Steeleye and the Albion Country Band (without the electrics) although reading through their sleeve notes I notice that Crucible dont quote either as the source. No, rather more studious than that, the quartet of Gavin Davenport, Helena Reynolds, Richard & Jess Arrowsmith have researched their material the hard way and taken the option of doing the job correctly in collecting the songs and tunes from sessions, old manuscripts and their parents etc. Nothing wrong in that - in fact, I find it refreshing that they could find the time to be bothered in articulating the reference points when a majority of the material is so readily available on numerous recordings before them. Why, I even remember hearing the Devil And The Farmers Wife being performed in a similar style by the City Waites years before (although, perhaps somewhat saucier). Its obvious that all four have spent a great deal of time in correctly balancing the brooding tonal quality of the 5-string violin, fiddle, guitar and melodeon to accompany the vocals. This is the kind of album that takes some getting into because if like me you are of a certain age you think youve probably heard it all before but like a gently simmering broth its well worth the wait.

Shire Folk

Jill Fisher

Crucible Changeling (Wild Goose Records WGS 315 CD) This is one of those albums that grows in appeal on repeat listening. Crucible (consisting of Jess and Richard Arrowsmith, Gavin Davenport and Helena Reynolds) produces a pleasantly chunky, traditional sound. Theres little here of instrumental or vocal virtuosity (but that doesnt seem to be the point of this band), and some of the harmonies dont quite work (to my ear at least), but these are minor points when placed against the good-natured charm of the album as a whole. Of particular note are the instrumental arrangements, where the use of fiddles (4 and 5 string and octave), border pipes, melodeons and anglo concertina give a rich and luxurious texture that manages never to sound over-produced. My favourite track, though, exhibits none of this complexity. Poor Mans Labour- to the tune of The Cuckoos Nest- works beautifully, and showcases Gavins voice and Richards melodeon to great effect. But the albums a band effort, and for a superb example of their ensemble playing, Thermidor is a winner, while their vocal skills are elegantly demonstrated on Evening Hymn.

Shreds and Patches

Alistair Gillies

Crucible are from Sheffield and the 4 members play and sung English folk music with a refreshing vitality. Crucible are Jess Arrowsmith: vocal and fiddle, Helena Reynolds vocals, fiddles and border pipes, Richard Arrowsmith: vocals, melodeons and concertina and Gavin Davenport: vocals and guitar and the CD consists of songs and music ? mainly trad but with some original.

The style of the tracks is varied ? tunes range from Morris to original, solo and harmony singing, a trip to a West Gallery and even shape note singing and it is good to hear well sung versions of songs that I have not heard for some time, notably Poor Mans Labours sung by Gavin and very well accompanied on melodeon by Richard, and The Bold Poachers with a Cotswold tune in the breaks.

I particularly like both the combination of the melodeon, fiddle and borders pipes on The Engagement Set, which are original tunes played with authenticity and the thought provoking Changelings Lullaby [words Gavin, tune and singing Jess], which explores the changeling myth. For me the singing on this is reminiscent of early June Tabor.

This is a very good CD but if I have to be frank I would have liked to have heard a more mellow sound ? the vocal harmony tracks are somewhat pinched and whilst the solo vocals are good there has been little attempt to explore for example, the bass end of the melodeon or, more unfortunately, Gavins very good guitars, and playing.

Crucible say that their repertoire comes from the vibrant trad scene that is Sheffield and if this is so, then vibrant it must indeed

be. This is a very good band who really know their music and I hope to see them at festivals



John Denny

What a lovely record! Crucible is the emphatically talented, singing wing of Hekety. What instantly stands out is that each of them is not only a very capable musician but also has a joyfully distinctive voice. I went to the CD launch and can happily say that the excellent live performance transfers well to the recording. They are refreshingly good and delightfully traditional. The pleasure they take in what they do also crosses over to the record. The songs may be as old as the hills but they sound as fresh as a daisy.

They open with a crisp version of Bold Poachers, noted in 1921 by E J Moeran. Their arrangement changes texture from verse to verse, shifting from rnelodeon and single vocal to fiddle, melodeon and double vocal and back again, switching into a version of a Cotswold morris tune (Idbury Hill). What seems completely original to these entirely traditional ingredients is the arrangement. On the following instrumental track (From Night til Morn), there is a rawness to the fiddle playing of Jess that contrasts with the small pipes played by Helena. This contrast is repeated in the four part vocal Harvest Home. A neat trick that and very, very able. The Devil and the Farmers Wife is a duet by Jess and Helena featuring their contrasting fiddles. Their voices harrnonise at gradually wider ranges and at one stage drift almost into a round and out again. They skilfully play around with the all the available textures, bringing the whole song to life without taking anything from its original character.

The Blackbird spotlights the singing of Gavin before the group shifts into the instrumental Black Nag. This time, it is a shifting of time signatures that adds a lift to the end of the track. Changelings Lullaby is an original (words by Gavin) sung solo by Jess who wrote the tune and is immediately followed by Yield, Yield Ye Mighty to the Lord which again is a new song (this time by Simon Haywood) sounding traditional and the whole group manage to sound like a massed choir. They end the CD with a shape note hymn (Evening Hymn). What stands out on all the tracks is the way they take simple, direct materials and bring them to life by the subtle and varied way they use them. There is a lot of hard work on this record that manages to sound free and easy. What a lovely record!

Whats on in Kent

Paul Homer

Probably the last review from me for Whats On Folks but what a treat this CD is to end on! A band of four musicians who I have never had the good fortune to come across. Playing mainly English traditional music, different combinations of their wealth of instrumental talent together with wonderful vocal harmonies make the listener ask can the next track be as good as the last? The answer is yes! Listeners interested in traditional music will be familiar with a number of the songs and tunes. Bold Poachers and Poor Mans Labours are two of these are given fine treatment. Members of the group also wrote the title track. The Changelings Lullaby, sad but none the less interesting thoughts about the mythology surrounding the birth of so called sub-normal babies. The CD ends with the resounding chants of an American Shape Note hymn Evening Hymn. Although recorded in a studio, there is no evidence of any electronic wizardry in the production of this superb album. I am pretty sure that what you get here is what you will get at a live performance. They credit Sheffield as their musical nucleus and even mention no less than three of my favourite pubs that they play and drink in. Sheffield is a really knife place for real-ale, trams and it seems, traditional music. I advise you to fork out and purchase this CD!