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JESS & RICHARD ARROWSMITH - Customs And Exercise

JESS & RICHARD ARROWSMITH - Customs And Exercise
Arrowsmith Music ARRCD01

The latest album from Sheffield-based pair Jess and Richard, also known for their work with Crucible, presents a well-chosen platter of songs and tunes. Admirably, the track list plucks its fruits from the non-obvious canon, so there are refreshingly few ‘oh, that one again’ moments. Traditional song The Smuggler, for example, previously unknown to me, makes a genial album companion to the Kipling/Bellamy Smuggler’s Song. The Arrowsmiths also prove themselves to be talented in the arts of composition and arrangement, as with Jess’s new tune to The Death Of Queen Jane and her eminently singable original song Jack Lay Back, which had me convinced she’d rustled it up in a jolly yellowing compendium somewhere.

The tunes are a pleasing mix of Playford, morris and contemporary. Jess’s fiddle and Richard’s accordion allow the tunes to speak for themselves whilst still providing enough clout and brawn in the backing to pack a punch, while Jess’s voice, on lead throughout, is strong and full of character. The pair have also resourcefully utilised the proverbially folkie-packed Sheffield phonebook by recruiting the likes of Nancy Kerr and James Fagan on backing. Songwise, one particular highlight is Where The Bee Sucks, words by Shakespeare, tune by Thomas Arne (of Rule Britannia fame), sung as a lullaby in Jess’s family for at least three generations, and a fitting closer to the album.

In short then, to misuse the album’s title, you would do well to get accustomed to exercising your ears on this little belter.

Clare Button

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.