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WHALEBONE - Mirabilia

WHALEBONE - Mirabilia
Two Wild Women Records TWW287

This is the sixth release by Shropshire based trio Steve Downs (acoustic/classical, 8 string baritone and electric guitars, slide mandolin, bass guitar, bodhrán), Sarah Ibberson (5 string violins) and Charlotte Watson (acoustic/classical and baritone guitars, bouzouki).

Written, performed, produced, mixed and mastered by the group, who accurately self summarise their offer as “eclectic acoustic music”, it presents a sequence of melodic instrumental, largely acoustic, music tinged with classical, Celtic, rock and American and European folk elements, easily relaxing and engaging in its content.

Themed and titled conceptually around the idea of “items of inexplicable origin and form”, given the unexpected metamorphoses in the development of their several compositions on the album, it is a pleasing potpourri of material, both easy on the ear and, in places, particularly calming and mesmeric in its catchy allure. Elegy for Sarah’s Chiltern childhood Chalk Heart, the intricate interwoven arrangement of Echoes, and exquisite middle movement of Floodplains are good examples and there are other entrancing atmospheric passages across the album.

Some, however, may find the repeated patterning in places a little over extended and crave some more movement. There is also an occasional challenge to congruence with rockier touches (the electric guitar solo in Bedrock and use of wah-wah in Holding Aces for example) that feel a tad trite and less well suited to the overall ambient appeal. However, in the main this is finely wrought, melodic and expressive tone-rich music that should further enhance the profile and reputation of this band.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 117 of The Living Tradition magazine.