Crux

by Crucible

Price: £4.99
WGS327CD

The second album from the multi-talented band - Crucible. They 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.



RICHARD ARROWSMITH voice, melodeons

GAVIN DAVENPORT voice, guitar, cittern

JESS ARROWSMITH voice, fiddle, viola

HELENA REYNOLDS voice, five-string & octave fiddles, bagpipes

1 georges son/ jakes progress 
We first heard Georges Son, written by John Kirkpatrick, on the Brass Monkey album See How It Runs and sang it unaccompanied before our current version evolved.  Helena wrote Jakes Progress to go with the song, in memory of another fine, brave dog.

 


2 chemical workers song 
Richard learned Chemical Workers from the singing of Vin Garbutt.  It was written by Ron Angel, who was a founder member of the Teesside Fettlers and used to work for ICI, but who managed to get out of the chemical industry before it was too late.

 


3 bobbing around / banks of the dee / swaggering boney 
A Crucible set wouldnt be right without a good dose of morris, so heres three all at once for your delectation.  Bobbing Around comes from the Bampton tradition, Banks of the Dee from Fieldtown, and Swaggering Boney, Richards most favourite morris tune ever, is in the Longborough style.

 


4 sorry the day i was married 
We put this much told tale to a tune we got from Nancy Kerr called Gan to the Kye and added some extra verses from J.O. Halliwells Nursery songs and rhymes.  All characters herein are not meant to resemble any real person, either living or dead

 


5 within the shadowed secrecy (psalm 91) 
Before we recorded the first album, Gavin and our friend and co-conspirator Simon Heywood decided to rewrite all of the psalms from the King James Bible into four-part songs. This hasnt quite come to pass, but stilltwo down?  Helena and Jess based the music around the melody to Eternal Home found in The Social Harp.

 


6 fair maid walking 
Gav remembers hearing his dad sing this song when he was young, and this version comes from the singing of Steve Gardham of Hull. The girl in the song is smart enough to use her no means no to get exactly what she wants.

 


7 thieves song 
Though we tend to avoid overtly political songs, this one popped into Gavs head a while back when numerous town councils across England were aggressively tackling beggars and vagrants with new moving on policies, deeming them unsightly and bad for tourism. Age old perceptions of all street people as criminals persist whilst big-business and political corruption is rife. The first lines of the chorus are traditional and come from James Orchard Halliwells Nursery Songs and Rhymes.

 


8 pink gin/ mopping nelly 
Pink Gin is the result of Gav messing around on a newly acquired melodeon and coming up with an A music to which Jess added the B.  The tune is named for Jesss prodigious gin consumption at IVFDF 2004, which made her turn a shade of shocking pink.  Mopping Nelly is a cool tune Helena found in Vickers Great Northern Tune Book (part 3!)

 


9 the 14th of november 
Always a fan of songs about women showing the men up, despite not being particularly political about these things, Helena found this in the George Butterworth collection, from the singing of a Mr Skinny Crow from Norfolk.

 


10 the hunt / mrs casey /jack come sell your fiddle 
Jack is a song Gav adapted from a nursery rhyme which we put to the tune of Sir Simon the King.  Mrs Casey is an old favourite while Richard learnt The Hunt from Roy Yarnell, a big inspiration for him and others in the world of morris.  Sadly, Roy passed away during the recording of this album, so this ones for him with love and thanks.

 


11 whipping cheer 
Jess found Whipping Cheare in the Faber Book of Ballads.  A 17th Century broadside ballad, it laments the plight of the inmates of Bridewell, a House of Correction opened in 1553. All who ended up there (from paupers and vagrants to petty criminals and prostitutes, otherwise known as punkes and panders) were put to work on treadmills to spin thread, with regular whippings and beatings for good measure.  Jess put it to a new tune as it hadnt got one.

 


12 old horse 
We absorbed Old Horse over many a well-oiled late night session in the company of Dr. Simon Heywood.  This version was collected form a traveler by East Yorkshire singer and fiddler Jim Eldon.

 


13 the red house / dragoons march / nonesuch 
Three lovely tunes from the collection of the esteemed retro-funkmeister Mr.Playford, a chap whose music was never intended to be accompanied by cups of weak tea and pastel cardigans. 
george’s son/jake’s progress
chemical worker’s song
Sample not available
bobbing around/banks of the dee/swaggering boney
Sample not available
sorry the day i was married
Sample not available
within the shadowed secrecy
Sample not available
fair maid walking
Sample not available
thieves’ song
pink gin/mopping nelly
Sample not available
the 14th of november
Sample not available
the hunt/mrs. casey/jack come sell your fiddle
Sample not available
whipping cheer
Sample not available
old horse
Sample not available
the playford set
Sample not available

Around Kent Folk

13 tracks

A fine group of young accomplished musicians and singers ?Jess & Richard Arrowsmith, Gavin Davenport and

Helena Reynolds. Melodeons, guitar, cittern, fiddle, viola, 5 string and octave fiddles, bagpipes and 4 part

harmony singing. A good balance of songs and tunes.

The unaccompanied version of Ron Angels Chemical Workers Song is great. Whipping Cheer (a 17 C broadside) and the singaround favourite Sorry the Day I was Married. A lovely version of Old Horse was collected by Jim Eldon from a traveller. Within the Shadowed Secrecy is written from Psalm 91 (King James Bible) by Gavin & Simon Heywood. The girls have based the tune around Eternal Home from the social harp collection.

Music includes Banks of the Dee, Mopping Nelly, The Hunt, Red House and Nonsuch. This CD reflects the enthusiasm, flair and skill of people who not only love and enjoy what they do, but are excellent at doing it.

Thefolkmag

Bob Taberner

Richard and Jess Arrowsmith and Gavin Davenport make up three fifths of

Hekety, one of the most exciting dance bands around, and, with Helena

Reynolds, they make up Crucible. This grouping concentrates on the song side

of the tradition with first rate harmony singing and tune sets designed more

for listening than dancing. This album, their second, will further enhance

their reputation.

Georges Son, a John Kirkpatrick song, makes a fine opener and the splendid

harmonies continue with Ron Angels Chemical Workers Song. Theres a wide

range to their song repertoire. Relatively familiar songs like Sorry The Day

I Was Married and Fair Maid Walking are given novel treatments, but, when

they rub shoulders with a setting of Psalm 91 (Within the Shadowed Secrecy,

of which Gavin was co-author), you realise how special this group is.

The four tune sets all work well with the final track The Playford Set being

my favourite, although Id have preferred them to finish on a song.

Crucible have researched their material well and put a lot of thought into

their arrangements. This is an album well worth getting.



Cruxfest Cecil Sharp House - 3rd Dec. 2005

Mike Everett

Crucible were here to officially launch their second CD, Crux. They are a remarkably talented four piece group from Sheffield who sing superbly a cappella as well as singing with accompaniment and playing sets of tunes.

cittern), Jess Arrowsmith (fiddle, viola) and Helena Revnolds (fiddles bagpipes).

Richard Arrowsmith and Gavin Davenport

They opened with a set of Playford tunes and also included two sets of Morris tunes during the concert. As you would expect, they also included some songs from the album such as Fair Maid Walking, Thieves Song, Whipping Cheer and Jack Come Sell

Your Fiddle, all sung with enthusiasm and a love of what they are doing,

Dirty Linen

BC

Crucible Crux WildGoose WGS327CD (2005)] This Sheffield foursome brings a Northern dourness to Brit?folk that distinguishes it from its jollier Oxfordshire contemporaries. Whether belting out fourpart harmonies, picking through morris tunes, or re?animating 17thcentury broadside ballads, Crucible exudes a roughness that conveys honest feeling and a smoothness that has no truck with slickness. The use of melodeon and pipes conjures an archaic mood that smells pleasantly of wood smoke

and leather.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

When reviewing Crucible's debut CD some time ago in FOLKNW I said that 'they're pretty damn good!'  and this latest album does nothing to dispel that opinion. In fact now they are even better, showing a maturity and confidence that comes with regular performances.

They start  with the punchy George's Son written by John Kirkpatrick followed by Jake's Progress written by band member Helena Reynolds. Great musicianship, singing and a hint of what's to come.

This album is full of jaunty, rhythmic and foot-tapping music and song. Of the latter I particularly liked the tight four part harmonies in Ron Angel's Chemical Workers Song and in Jim Eldon's version of Old Horse. In the former category their rendition of Swaggering Boney is one of the best I've heard in long while.

Even when they slow things down such as in their 're-written' version of the 91st psalm which they call Within the Shadowed Secrecy and in Whipping Cheer the delivery is forceful to say the least.

I liked Gavin's Thieves' Song too. In the sleeve notes they sound a little apologetic that this is a political song, a theme which they normally avoid. They needn't be, much of the revival was based on politics and protest so why not have a go if it's something that upsets you! Every folk singer should have a protest song!!! (Sorry, got a bit carried away there ed.)

I'm not really qualified to comment on the tunes except to say that with the instrumental mix of melodeons, guitar, cittern, fiddles, viola and bagpipes (sounds like a Music Room stock list!) and their approach to the musical arrangements it makes for cracking listening. Rest assured, they are going to be around for a long time.

A pleasure through and through and well done Doug at Wild Goose for capturing their sound so well.

fRoots

David Kidman

This youthful yet mature Sheffield four-piece brought forth its debut CD, Changeling, in 2003; it was very good indeed, but Crux indisputably represents a giant leap forward into the front ranks. But first lets clear up any misunderstanding: Crucible was formed, essentially, to focus on singing English traditional song; ostensibly to provide an outlet for that side of the members talents and proclivities not addressed through their parallel membership of ceilidh bands. Crucible is not, however, to be regarded as a poor-relation second-string activity, for each of the four, while a strong and very capable instrumentalist, happens to be a damn fine singer with a grasp of, and commitment to, the song repertoire that would put many a specialist song?based ensemble to shame.

Crux is expertly named, for Crucible reach to the heart of the matter, displaying both an acute intelligence and thoughtful musicality in so doing, bringing guts and attitude back into the music. They have always exhibited an unshakeable confidence in their singing and playing, but even this has been stepped up a few notches, especially in the organic way the ensemble work defines and develops the internal voicings (voices particularly, but also instrumental lines) within any given setting. Their new-found confidence in using studio facilities is apparent too, as is the additional layer of expertise and attack born out of 18 months of hard gigging and road?testing innovative and adventurous musical arrangements.

Not to mention the evident grass?roots level hard graft and research into the sources: Sorry The Day I Was Married combines the tune normally associated with Gan To The Kye with a text that creatively conjoins existing fragments and additional verses taken from Halliwells Nursery Songs And Rhymes. Theres the strange and powerful, though almost wilfully obscure Old Horse, alongside an interestingly altered rhythm version of Fair Maid Walking. Ron Angels defiant Chemical Workers Song proves an unusual but effective contemporary choice once youve got used to Crucibles melting-pot of equally unorthodox harmonies. These are often spine chilling, for there is no over pretty harmonising, theirs is more the forthright, in-yer-face approach to singing, and the rough edges and often discomforting tones are symptomatic of a deliberate decision to sing it with balls. Unlike many other song-based ensembles, each of Crucibles four singers is vocally an equal in terms of overall strength, and they blend together extraordinarily well; this enables them to ring changes which keeps the mix constantly fresh and exciting, and theyre willing to experiment. The album also contains three purely instrumental tracks, each one strikingly different in character.

So, summing up, Crux is a CD that anyone interested in the future health of English folk music should hear. It communicates the four individuals commitment to the music, and their enthusiasm tempered with good sound sense. They take the trouble to thoroughly credit their sources, and while they take their music making seriously, they clearly have great fun doing so. Crux is definitely one of the key folk releases of 2005.

Netrythms

David Kidman

This fab Sheffield four-piece goes from strength to strength! Their first CD, Changeling, appeared less than two years ago, and received some very good press, although it took a string of live appearances for their reputation to be cemented. But I was certainly most impressed with that debut CD, even more so when I learned that the band had only been together a short time in that form when it went in to the studios to make that CD! Crucible was formed, essentially, to focus on singing English traditional song, to provide an outlet for that side of the members individual talents which was not catered for in their parallel membership of ceilidh bands Hekety and Jabadaw. Crucible, though a distinct separate entity from the members other musical pursuits and engagements, is however emphatically not to be regarded as a poor-relation second-string activity, for each of the four happens to be a damnably fine singer and their excellent grasp of, and commitment to, the song repertoire would put many a song-based folk ensemble to shame. But as Ive hinted, all four are also strong and very capable instrumentalists (ooh Im so jealous!!) - Rich is the box player, Gavin the guitarist (who gets to bring his cittern out too this time round), and Jess and Helena the fiddlers and so their approach to the material is as all-round musicians in the widest sense and informed by their expertise in the field of playing for dance (notably morris). And Crucibles second CD is intelligently named too - crux meaning the basic or central or critical point or feature. Crucible certainly get to the heart of the matter in their interpretations, and display both an intelligence and thoughtful musicality in so doing, while - and this is the clinching factor and inarguably the crux of their appeal - bringing back the guts (and Attitude) to the much-maligned folk genre. In this respect alone, while Changeling was a bloody good CD in itself and stood up to the competition with honours, Crux is streets ahead again and a giant stride both musically and in artistic development terms. An unshakeable confidence was always right there both in the singing and in the playing, but even this has been stepped up a few notches, particularly in the singing and especially in the organic way the ensemble work defines and develops the internal voicings (voices particularly, but also instrumental lines) within any given setting. Their new-found confidence in using studio facilities is apparent too, as is the additional layer of expertise and attack born out of 18 months hard gigging and road-testing of innovative and adventurous musical arrangements. And of course, the sheer originality of these, which in turn is the fruit of hours of grass-roots-level hard graft and research into the sources; every single setting is worked on and worked up until it feels right, a process which may have taken a considerable time!

A good example here is the Crucible take on Sorry The Day I Was Married, which marries (sorry!) the tune normally associated with Gan To The Kye with a text that creatively conjoins existing fragments and additional verses taken from Halliwells Nursery Songs And Rhymes, all in a rather mournful minor-mode setting. But in truth, each of the other songs on the CD has some special characteristic to commend it: theres the strange and powerful though almost wilfully obscure Old Horse, originally collected from a traveller by Jim Eldon, and the 17th century Broadside ballad Whipping Cheer (obviously not the product of a folk-club S&M Night!), alongside an interestingly altered-rhythm version of Fair Maid Walking, complete with morris-style slowing-down for the final verse. Jack Come Sell Your Fiddle, appended to a clutch of tunes, is a spirited adaptation of a nursery rhyme, while Ron Angels defiant Chemical Workers Song proves an unusual but effective contemporary choice once youve got used to Crucibles melting-pot of equally unorthodox harmonies. Representing the Social Harp collection this time round is Within The Shadowed Secrecy, while Thieves Song (largely Gavs own composition) is a timely commentary on contemporary attitudes. Theres also an interesting rendition of a little-known John Kirkpatrick song Georges Son, and Helena turns in a fine version of The 14th Of November, which she found in the George Butterworth collection.

Crucibles vocal work, youthful yet mature, is exceptional, the harmonies often spine-chilling, for while any harmonic opportunities are invariably grasped with all four sets of tonsils theres no sense of over-egging or of harmonic niceties for their own sake that can beset singing groups, and definitely no pretty harmonising. For Crucibles is more the forthright, in-yer-face approach to singing that youd associate with a Cordelias Dad rather than an Artisan or a Quartz, say, and yet its rough edges and often discomforting tones are symptomatic not of any hasty ill-preparedness or lack of proper technique but of a deliberate decision to eschew overt prettiness and sing it with balls. The essence of Crucible is their willingness to experiment, and specifically when compared to other song-based ensembles, in that each of the four singers is vocally an equal in terms of overall strength, rather than it feeling like a lead singer with a backing band. This intrinsic equality of parts enables them to ring changes which keep the mix constantly fresh and exciting. Each is a strong singer, individual and distinctive in timbre, yet they blend together extraordinarily well. I noticed this with Changeling, but on Crux I found Gavs singing in particular to be stronger than ever, his distinctive tones cutting through the texture like nobodys business, with a stridency thats really tremendously appealing.

In all, Crux presents us with just over an hour of music, which is certainly not too long for it contains oodles of variety in pace and mood during the course of its 13 tracks. There are just three purely instrumental tracks, each one strikingly different in character. Track 3 is a supremely sprightly set of morris tunes thats given an unusual, almost medieval twist by the part-doubling and dark-toned gamba-consort-like blend of string tones and parts. Pink Gin/Mopping Nelly is an intriguing set on which a curiously insistent little pizzicato motif develops into a distinctly Breton-sounding tune (played on bagpipes) that turns out to have been taken from Vickers Great Northern Tune Book. The finale sets a feisty Playford medley of determinedly lusty richness, where the sheer oomph of Crucibles attack at times recalls that of Spiers & Boden, but sans stomp-board!

So, summing up, Crux is a CD that any folk enthusiast owes it to him/herself to hear. It communicates the four individuals commitment to the music, and their joy in making it, with an unbridled enthusiasm tempered with good sound sense, They take the trouble to thoroughly credit their sources, and while they take their music-making seriously they clearly have great fun doing so, and this comes across forcefully to the listener. Crux is destined to become one of my folk albums of the year, no question.

Living Tradition

Alan Rose

Crux is the second album from this young, multi-talented quartet. Richard Arrowsmith plays melodeon, Gavin Davenport plays cittern and guitar, Jess Arrowsmith plays fiddle and viola, and Helena Reynolds plays fiddle and bagpipes. All four sing, so between them they have the broadest palette imaginable to arrange and deliver their mainly traditional material. They have obviously been working hard since the release of their first album, which I reviewed for TLT in the early spring of 2004. As the Wild Goose press release has it, Changeling was good, but I think this is a more confident and accomplished album...

The album opens with two contemporary songs, a full-on version of John Kirkpatricks Hardyesque Georges Son and an accapella treatment of Ron Angels Chemical Workers Song, which give a good indication of what follows. There are at least four sets of tunes and songs from all corners of the tradition; each delivered with enthusiasm, flair and skill by people who not only love what they do, but are also very good at doing it.

You dont need to go visiting any websites to find out more about this band - they were TLT cover stars in issue 57 where Bob Walsers article provided insight and information, as well as a photo featuring them all looking in different directions. On the evidence of Crux, this photo is wildly inaccurate. Crucible are a band whose unity of direction is clear for all to hear.


Mardles

Keith Kendrick

I really like this band , not just for their command of their art but also for the fact that they are all incredibly nice people with little or no visible ego! A major thing I pick up on yet again is their obvious respect for, and joy in, performing their music. What a delight!

This collection is packed with taste, talent, enthusiastic research and plain honest to goodness commitment. There are, and always have been, many great instrumental bands, acapela groups, performers and groups with an acute sense of story telling in their delivery of the songs and highly skilful writing ability. Very few can tick all the boxes as convincingly as this lot.

What about the CD? Well, once more, there are examples here of everything thats identifiable with English music performance at its finest. We open with a stunning rendition of John Kirkpatricks `Georges Son. They have clearly put their own stamp on it thereby giving it new life and validation. Ron Angels `Chemical Workers Song and the psalm `Within The Shadowed Secrecy are two particularly excellent but very different examples of their unique acapela harmony style ? very crisp but with enough of a round edge not to be too clean or clinical. Then theres the instrumental offerings like the trio of morris tunes ? Richard Arrowsmiths command of his melodeon here is daunting. Theres a wonderful rendition of one of my favourite old Irish court dance tunes ? `The Hunt. This is coupled with a very nice delivery of `Mrs Casey which suddenly, yet seamlessly, picks up speed before steaming into the song `Jack Come Sell Your Fiddle. In the `Thieves Song Gavin Davenport displays his considerable writing talent, also revealing a hitherto (apparently) unexplored penchant for political and social comment.

Three other tracks are particularly worth a mention: `A Fair Maid Walking a super variant of the old favourite `No Sir No from the singing of Steve Gardham of Hull, a wonderfully soulful version of `Sorry The Day I was Married with some lovely two part stuff from Helena Reynolds and Jess Arrowsmith using a tuned played by Nancy Kerr called Gan To The Kye, and `The 141 of November all with excellent and intuitive arrangements. The latter features some particularly keen five string viola by Helena.

The quality of this CD as a product is not solely down to the band. It goes without saying, for anyone who has listened to much of his production work, that Doug Baileys standards have always been well high ? he has excelled himself with this one! A great joint mixing job between Doug and the lads makes this a clear contender, surely, for CD of the Year.

Shreds and Patches

Chris Beaumont

Front the very first track you know you are in for a treat with this album: a splendid rendition of Georges Son by John Kirkpatrick, it opens with pipes, fiddle and harmony singing that fairly knocks you sideways. This band can certainly do the business: with a line?up that includes melodeon, guitar, cittern, viola and five?string and octave fiddles, they do traditional songs, composed songs and some that are a bit of both (Halliwells Nursery Songs and Rhymes is an inspirational source here); there are accompanied, unaccompanied songs and some cracking tune sets.

There are so many good tracks its difficult to pick anything out ? a Sacred Harp style setting of Psalm 91 is followed by a jaunty Fair Maid Walking with English?style melodeon, while Wipping Cheer is a 17thC broadside ballad given a haunting tune and guitar and cittern accompaniment. Its all done with taste and style, and above all arrangements and instrumentation that fit the songs excellently. Buy the album, enjoy it, and try to catch them in concert somewhere.

Sing Out

MDR

From the folks at Wild Goose Records, who just keep turning out superb CDs of contemporary English folkies, comes the sophomore recording from Crucible, a Sheffield-based quartet.  It's unusual to encounter a group that displays such instrumental talent and such vocal strength simultaneously: these kids can really play.  Steeped in the Morris tradition, Richard Arrowsmith's melodeon playing lays down the bedrock groove behind these sides.  Gavin Davenport's work on guitar and cittern is brilliant, as is Jess Arrowsmith's on fiddle and viola.  Helena Reynolds plays five string and octave fiddles�not heard much these days�and bagpipes, completing the sound, which is at once ancient, with its drones and skirls, and wonderfully rakish.

     Crucible ranges far and wide for their material. �Within The Shadowed Secrecy,� penned by Davenport and Simon Heywood is a gorgeous setting of Psalm 91 for four unaccompanied voices.  The �Thieves Song� is a quasi-political ballad, based on a child's nursery rhyme. Jess Arrowsmith turned to a seventeenth century broadside ballad for �Whipping Cheer,� and set it to her own haunting tune.  There's party music aplenty, too, with the medley of morris tunes, a version of �Old Horse,� and a rousing arrangement of three tunes from the collection of �retro funkmaster� John Playford. Get on the dancefloor, y'all.  If I had any quibbles with Crux  it would be in the mixing.  The music mixes often overpower the vocals: which is a pity in a group which both sings and plays so well.  This is great stuff, though�fresh, but solidly in the tradition.