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MDR of Sing Out

reviews Crux by Crucible

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.