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CAMBRIDGE & WALKER - Wheel And Dive 

CAMBRIDGE & WALKER - Wheel And Dive 
Private Label CAW002CD 

This is an outstanding disc, period. Listening to this, their first full-length, it’s hard to believe that this duo (David Cambridge and Jenna Walker) came together less than five years ago, in summer 2016. David and Jenna share a common vision, for they’re both firmly entrenched in the traditions of folk music, its role in the community and keeping folk music alive. Jenna’s day-job involves the preservation and advancement of folk music through Soundpost and TradSongTues, while David, a stylish performer and craftsman guitar-builder, has been a prominent figure on the East of England folk scene for many years. Here, solid pedigrees, careful research, excellent taste and right-on contemporary consciousness all meld with intelligence and imagination and serious talent to produce a significantly well-balanced and sensibly coordinated CD programme that’s abundantly satisfying and stimulating on all counts.

A standout feature of David and Jenna’s music-making is the loving care with which they treat their material, and the tender, persuasive way they communicate the songs’ messages to their listeners – thus producing more than a fair share of neck-prickling moments. Jenna and David possess clear-toned and wonderfully complementary voices, authentically ‘folk’ with the added interest of truly mesmerising, exquisitely coordinated harmonies that manage to be both ingenious and natural. The genuinely supportive instrumentation is centred around David’s unobtrusively skilled, intricately and lovingly moulded guitar work, embellished meaningfully so as not to overcrowd Jenna’s occasional piano, accordion and (sensitive) percussion and ideally judged contributions from musical friends Hattie McCall Davies (cello) and Derek Scurll (percussion) and a beautifully understated yet clear-sighted production by Dan Wilde.

The disc opens to the sound of skylark-song and Jenna’s softly charismatic speaking voice ushering in her powerful original composition on an environmental theme; this provides an effective counterpart to David’s Sea Change, a commentary on the decline of the fishing industry, later in the set. The remainder of the disc balances covers “both respectful and a little bit different” (great description!) with reliably researched and highly individual treatments of traditional songs. The covers include an exceptional account of Joni M’s Case Of You, an inventive take on Richard Thompson’s Waltzing’s For Dreamers (with meltingly gorgeous cello counterpoint), and a sensitively harmonised a cappella Briar And The Rose. Highlights among the traditionals are a deftly rhythm-charged Two Magicians, an ingenious Come All Ye Fair combi, a game-changing moody and menacing Reynardine with sansula-embroidered spoken intro and eerie lap steel, and as album finale, Jenna’s impressively re-composed take on The Unfortunate Tailor.

I strongly encourage you to dive into Jenna and David’s album; first its compelling swift-bedecked artwork will wheel you in, and then the captivating beauty and integrity of the music within will ensure you remain within its gravitational pull for some time.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine