Ian Croft of Article in R2
reviews Wreck off Scilly by Andy Clarke and Steve TylerInsight Review R2 magazine
Devon duo Andy Clarke & Steve Tyler have been playing together for four years though their musical origins are very different. Andy was eight when he first played Autoharp in a folk club, taken by his dad, and picked up the trad bug very early. He started gigging aged nineteen and spent many years just playing around Devon and helping to run Totnes folk club. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that Pete Coe gave him the confidence to get out into the clubs around the UK though, he says, “I don’t make any money out of it which is why I still clean windows.” Before the duo, he made three solo CD’s and one with Wistmans Wood, also featuring Jackie Oates and box player Steve Turner.
Steve meanwhile, was introduced to the guitar by his grandfather, but didn’t come across folk music until many years later when accompanying his brother busking. He also discovered sessions: “I’ve never been a tune player as such; for me, it’s always about patterns round the music. I want somebody else to be playing the tune.” In 1993, Steve fell for the hurdy gurdy and early music too, forming Misericordia with Anne Marie Summers to do “medieval stuff, some of it dressed up for such as English Heritage.” He also plays with the band Angles, and was once in Jackie Oates band, though, he says, “I never really thought of myself as a folk musician.”
Having seen each other around sessions, their first meeting came after Andy played a song he was going to record, and Steve mentioned that he’d just recorded it for another project. Andy asked Steve to play on his CD, and they worked up three songs the first night they rehearsed. “It was so easy,” says Andy. “We agreed to do something together, and were gigging within the year.”
In the duo, Andy mostly plays bouzouki and sings, while Steve plays his treasured hurdy gurdy. Their first CD, Wreck Off Scilly, was recently released to good reviews including one from Andy’s friend who admitted to not liking the hurdy gurdy at all until he heard it on this album.
Songs are chosen by Andy, tunes by Steve. “I like a Devon connection, or something that resonates,” says Andy. “My starting point is the Baring-Gould collection. I’ll often hear a song in a folk club and be reminded that I heard it years ago, but I always check out the source first to make sure I know what I’ve got.” On the CD is a lovely version of ‘Cold Blows The Winter’, which Andy heard a woman sing in Skipton folk club. “It was from Cecil Sharp’s collection, but I found a different version from Baring- Gould and put it with her tune. I’ll always take the best tune.”
Steve sources many of his tunes from Europe, but he is a prolific writer of bigger works that don’t really fit into a folk context. One piece scaled down for the album is ‘The Wendigo’ . Steve explains, “I was in a band called The Wendigo with Anne Marie Summers and Julian Sutton, and recorded the tune in 1990. It started from playing about with chords and rhythmic patterns and then plotting a tune over the top. Over the years I’ve written different parts and toyed around, and it became quite a monster. We selected just some of the parts for the duo.”
So with a great new album in tow, Andy and Steve are booked at five festivals this year, and “are currently up to two-and a-half tours of clubs.”