Thursday 15 May 2014


CD Review


It's not rocket science - more musical alchemy. Take a harmonica player considered to be among the greatest in the world, add a professional fiddle/viola player and teacher of the highest calibre and it doesn't take an egghead to work out you have the recipe for some stunning music.

Will Pound and wife Nicky who are Haddo
Mix the chemistry together, pour onto an album, this time straining out the harmonica, and what you have is Haddo, the pairing of husband and wife team Will and Nicky Pound for their second project together, Borderlands.
Make no mistake this is a sheer, unadulterated cut-it-through-the-middle-and-it-spells-folk-all-the-way-across-type album.
Not only is it pure folk, it's great folk, traditional folk, contemporary folk and wonderfully executed folk - can you see a point being laboured here?
Midlander, Mr Pound, originally from Leamington Spa, has left his usual gobiron at home (well almost) and this time comes with his hands full of melodeon to play alongside his wife on fiddle and viola for this Anglo-Scottish music fest.
It's Nicky who gets to open the album with Ampleforth but Will isn't far behind squeezing out the tune which seems to turn into a dance with the couple crisscrossing each other as the structure of the tune builds. The expertly musical couple harmonise wonderfully for this lively track and as you would expect in such skilled hands manage to keep the distinct sound of their respective instruments separate and neither overpowering the other.
This of course all makes for a pleasant musical ride into the next and similar sounding set of jigs called Two Williams.
Mrs Pound, originally from Aberdeen, slows proceedings down a little with her strings for the lazy sounding Midama. The leisurely pace is not really surprising when you think the title comes from the name of their narrow boat which is their floating Oxfordshire home.
As it opens out you can almost see the long craft gliding peacefully along the waterways of the countryside and industrial landscapes of this nation.
They give a slightly more contemporary and, strangely enough, jolly sound to the traditional murder ballad of Two Sisters.
On this Mrs Pound exercises her voice. Although her singing is solid enough, she doesn't sound entirely comfortable being a vocalist and on the higher range it appears to be taking all her concentration to keep the notes true.
The new album
However, saying that her voice has a real girlish charm which grows on you the more you hear it.
Old Tom of Oxford is given the Stephane Grappelli treatment and you realise Mrs Pound can make that fiddle sing just like she had control of an opera singer's vocal cords. It's such fun to listen to when it moves seamlessly from jazz to a hoedown-style sound.
There is a slightly more classical, even medieval feeling, to Earl of Newman, who is a Morris dancer rather than a nobleman, with Mr Pound keeping the folk strand going as his wife's playing dances along at a pace that would keep the fittest of bladder wavers on their toes.
Farley Bridge is a contemplative tune, beautifully played by Mrs Pound and such is the rapport between the two instruments it's sometimes difficult to tell where the strings begin and the bellows start. This is a gorgeous tune pulled right from Mrs Pound's roots north of the border. She stays there for the extremely well known Will Ye No Come Back Again? in which Mrs Pound once again turns songstress. She has got the balance right between staying traditional enough to be instantly recognisable but still with enough of a contemporary twist to make you do a double take.
Mr Pound is the main instrumentalist on this one and keeps the tune running just underneath his wife's voice, which seems more comfortable with the range of this song than the previous attempt.
Without doubt the track which shows the couple working in almost telepathic harmony is Halsway Carol a fairly face-paced tune, not the sort of music you would immediately associate with more traditional carols, but nonetheless it's a beautiful piece of music played to perfection.
Will Pound with the more
 familiar harmonica
The lovely slow pace of Orange In Bloom, which is a very English offering but not immediately recognisable as a Morris tune, has stretched out phrases which sometimes give almost a Parisian feel, but it's wonderfully relaxing and almost hypnotic.
The tempo goes up as Mrs Pound gets all jaunty for Frank's Reel from highly respected Scottish musician John McCusker.
You can feel the energy leaping from her bow and it's as if she has challenged her hubby to a musical race because the tempo is cranked up further half way in but, no surprise here, Mr Pound is up to the task - his squeezebox matching her stroke for stroke to produce a really rich, deep and extremely Celtic sounding tune which contains just a sprinkling of what sounds like gypsy strings threaded through the jazz-style strands.
The final track Spootiskerry originates from Shetland, although it has more of an American feel to it and there was a certain inevitability about a harmonica being smuggled in, but when it's played with such gusto you kind of turn a blind ear and enjoy the rasping sound it brings to proceedings.
Borderlands is a wonderful collection of the traditional played by the contemporary and it's the sort of album that you know is going to get plenty of airplay and should be in the collection not just of people who are into folk music but people who are into music which reeks with quality.

Borderlands is released on May 19 on Lulubug Records and can be bought through Proper Distribution.

If you want to see Will and Nicky perform live then they will be at the Ceilidh, Bishops Tachbrook, Warwickshire on June 14 and on stage at the Warwick Folk Festival which runs from July 25 to 27.

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