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The Morning Tree is a vocal-fiddle-guitar-bouzouki trio of mixed (Italian and Irish) origin, comprising Consuelo Nerea Breschi, Matteo Podda and Eoghan O’Shaughnessy. Their eponymous debut CD presents an almost-even-handed mix of songs and tunes, sung and played with much evident conviction and a pronounced, and genuine, feel for their (exclusively) traditional repertoire.

On first acquaintance, though, and especially during the first half of the disc, a listener might well be inclined to suggest, using the simplest of comparative benchmarks, that the trio’s basic approach and manner of arrangements appear to derive from two identifiable, specific sources: (primarily) Pentangle and (to a lesser extent) Sweeney’s Men. As it happens, The Morning Tree is entirely unafraid to own up to that strong Pentangle influence (and to taking direct inspiration from Bert Jansch’s guitar style in particular); indeed, the digipack prominently carries a fair-minded endorsement from John Renbourn which rightly praises the trio’s singing and playing for its “nice touches that enrich the listening experience”. Listeners shouldn’t judge The Morning Tree’s stylish performances as unduly derivative, for they impress much in their own right, and the admirably clean recording aids our appreciation of the textural subtleties within. After a while, the trio’s high degree of thoughtfulness becomes more apparent and the ostensibly low-key delivery of much of the album reaps its own rewards, not least due to the fresh character of the performances. The sprightly skip of Do You Love An Apple? is played out to a guitar tracerie that’s somewhat redolent of Pentangle’s Once I Had A Sweetheart, while Wee Weaver provides a keen contrast. Best of all, though, is the closing track, an intense account of The Emigrant’s Farewell on which Consuela and Eoghan share vocal duty above the keening undulation of twin fiddles and selective bouzouki embellishments.

Unusually, May Morning Dew is performed here in purely instrumental garb, but the remainder of the non-vocal selections take the form of straightforward tune-sets. Here, there’s a gentle richness about the naturally considered blending of one (sometimes two) fiddles with bouzouki, while the finest (and fieriest) of these, Pearl’s Marches (sourced from Eoghan’s grandmother, herself a fiddle player), sure rouses and stirs the blood. Indeed, the whole CD, perhaps paradoxically as much due to, as in spite of, its often deceptively undemonstrative demeanour, proves tremendously rewarding.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.