Clive Pownceby of Lancashire Wakes
reviews 8 More Miles by Rattle on the StovepipeIt would be tempting and not a little reviewer-lazy to quote at length from Shirley Collins’ liner notes here, and leave the piece at that! Shirley refers to the engaging nature of this trio, alluding to its inspiring in her the same devotion she gets from their stateside sources and referencing the sweetness, ease and subtlety “so deftly played and so perfectly paced.” Right that’s it - done and dusted. No wait, come back!
This acoustic aggregation comprises Dave Arthur (banjo,guitar,melodeon) Pete Cooper (fiddle,viola) and Chris Moreton (guitar,mandolin) and all share the vocal duties at various times and in varied combinations. They’ve been together for some years but this is the first recording under the band’s official name. In these days of too clever-clever Americana, it’s immensely refreshing to hear real old time music played with such verve and melodic nous, by musicians at the very top of their game. Many of the ballads and tunes collected in the US had, of course, their genesis in these isles and the repertory here is best described as Anglo-American. Listen to the familiar jig “New Rigged Ship” beloved of box players in sessions nationwide and then hear its coupling and development into “Green Willis” – a fiddle and banjo reel. The revenant ballad “Willie’s Ghost” - “Sweet William’s Ghost” as Child No.77, first printed in Edinburgh in 1740 appears (no pun intended) in a version learnt by Dave in 2000 from Appalachian singer, Bobby McMillon. Indeed the air of authority that permeates throughout readily testifies to the many trips that Arthur has made to North Carolina and Georgia over the past 30+ years.
Here are tales from the dark side – supernatural, mysterious, compelling. Of death, true love and false lovers. Sentiment in spades. (I can never hear “Footmarks In The Snow” without lump-in-throat and here, despite Bill Monroe’s definitive 1945 recording it reveals its parentage in English Music Hall.) Add to this polkas, waltzes and downright breathless fox-chasing and you have an exhilarating roller coaster of an album for the discerning listener.
Its source material is invaluable, the chosen material faultless and with comprehensive and scholarly notes confirming a thorough knowledge of the genre, it’s akin to sitting down with a good book. Reading through the carousel origins of the Anglo-Irish-American “Lakes Of Ponchartrain” is like getting stuck into an absorbing whodunit!
A very appealing debut – this hits every spot available!