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THE FOXGLOVE TRIO - These Gathered Branches

THE FOXGLOVE TRIO - These Gathered Branches
Private Label FGXCD02

I first encountered the music of The Foxglove Trio around 18 months ago with its EP release Like Diamond Glances, whose five tracks provided both a highly convincing demonstration of the special talents of its members and a tantalising glimpse of the delights to come on this their first full-length album release. Initial impression is of an ensemble whose members are very sure both of themselves and their capabilities and of where they’re taking their music.

The Trio’s members come from Wales and Yorkshire originally, but now live in Hampshire and Hertfordshire; they pride themselves on unearthing songs from all over the UK (but especially those locations with which they have a direct connection), songs that might not be all that well-known, and bringing them back into circulation in sparkling new arrangements, of which there are plenty of good examples amongst the disc’s dozen tracks. Particular successes here are the two songs sung in Welsh by Ffion Mair, a singer with a wonderfully strong and characterful voice and exemplary diction, although there’s also much to enjoy in the remainder of the selections, which encompass on one hand the humorous tale of The Three Huntsmen, Hamish Currie’s competition-winning account of the life of highwayman James Snooks and a lusty Child Ballad, The Jolly Pinder Of Wakefield, and on the other hand the poignant disc opener Mr And Mrs (which concerns the emotional reunion of a child with her family), and a heart-rendingly beautiful rendition of Norman MacLeod’s Farewell To Fiunary (which IMHO eclipses even Kris Drever’s classy version).

The trio’s signature sound blend is tremendously captivating, and may be considered slightly unusual even for a folk band, the dominant presences being the contrasting timbres of punchy, driven melodeon (Patrick Dean) and lyrical cello (Cathy Mason), with Ffion filling in where required on bodhrán and whistle, Cathy contributing occasional guitar and Patrick a second cello line and some percussion. Having made this observation, however, two of the standout items on the disc are untypical in that regard, since they provide brilliant showcases of a vocal kind. A setting of the emotionally charged broadside poem The Pit Boy, which commemorates the 1851 pit disaster at Warren Vale near Rawmarsh, Rotherham, is done a cappella, whereas Stars And Bells imaginatively segues the traditional O How Lovely Is The Evening (delivered in gorgeous, highly accomplished three-part harmony) with a lovely Glen Hansard original Star, Star.

The whole product exudes class, with an expert production by Mark Hutchinson, while the disc’s digipack sports a very attractive design. Presentation is exemplary, with well-written liner notes (and full lyrics are available on the trio’s website). A most distinctive and truly memorable debut album from an act to watch.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 107 of The Living Tradition magazine.