Jenny Coxon of EDS
reviews New Road to Alston by Dave Townsend and Gill RedmondBeing familiar with some of both Dave and Gill’s work, I anticipated enjoying this, their first recording as a duo. English concertina and cello is an uncommon combination, but in the hands of such inspired musicians, each instrument can express its own character without either one dominating. Every track stands out for a different reason because of subtly varied presentation and arrangements: gentle, solemn, bouncy, melancholy, lively, contemplative, mysterious.
I was delighted that sixteen of the 23 tunes had assorted north-country origins, and that the work of Greg Stephens and Carolyn Francis in particular was highlighted in both notes and acknowledgments, plus Geoff Bowen, Robin Shepherd, Matt Seattle and James Merryweather; I’d add the Old Friends Band to that list! These wonderful tunes from 18th and 19th century fiddlers’ manuscripts are becoming well established in the contemporary repertoire. Additionally, three tunes were Swedish, two were Welsh, and the remainder (and the six songs) were from southern English sources.
Dave’s concertina playing is fluid, gentle, chordal, intricate – he enjoys challenging tunes like the ‘Washington Hornpipe’, although ‘William Irwin’s’ (‘Barbara Allen’) felt slightly rushed; his singing is straightforward and suits the songs. Gill’s cello has a personality of its own – it almost speaks; her playing is understated, sprightly, syncopated, thoughtful, with a huge range of sounds, dynamics and effects. Together they are wonderfully inventive; each instrument taking the lead, accompanying, or intertwining with the other. I enjoyed ‘New Road to Alston/Trip to Cartmel’, which suited Edwin Irwin’s description – ‘Shining tunes… weirdly fine’; also the sparkling ‘Aberdaugleddau’, dazzling in its complexity; the chunky ‘I’ll Touzle Your Kerchie’ with chordal concertina and a wonderful cello line; and the magical ‘Variations on Johnny Cope’ – beautiful concertina with intricate variations and perfect cello counterpoint. Intellectually satisfying, musically stimulating, eminently danceable; totally stunning.