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MOONRAKERS - Silken Thread

MOONRAKERS - Silken Thread
Private Label

This is the fourth album release from this Oxford based quartet formed in 1998 by Jon Bennett (guitar, bouzouki, whistles, bodhran, keyboard, bass) joined here by Liz Van Santen (5 string fiddle), Anna Lockett (harp), Jo Daley (vocals) and on two tracks, Rowan Bennett (harp).

From the case artwork, there’s no doubting the collective Celtic inclination with the arborial imagery, knotwork, colourscape and letter fonts. Musically, indeed, they do draw on some traditional material with that heritage and the harp has a distinct presence and profile in their arrangements, but there are also several good contemporary songs by Jon, a cover of Phil Och’s When I’m Gone, and other influences. Essentially, they are a classical-folk crossover, more ‘old’ in sound and feel rather than ‘contemporary’ in their fashioning, evidently experienced and accomplished in their musicianship and good at layering and interweaving their ensemble arrangements to create generally pleasing outcomes.

Vocally, the Celtic connection is certainly not persuasive! Jon’s warm baritone vibrato voice is very politely mannered, evoking perhaps an early BBC newsreader betaking himself to folk song; some rougher vernacular edges might be more fitting for both folk and Celt cred! Yet, Jo’s sweet voice is much more folk in feel and their instrumental music does certainly have genuine Celtic resonance and is very compelling in its aural allure. Irish air Shule Aroon, presented with Savourna Stevenson’s harp arrangement and some fine fiddle improvisation, is gracefully exquisite. Scottish air Logan Water and Jon’s tune Rosie, played on Songs Of Praise in 1999 apparently, are likewise rich in their movement and textural appeal.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 102 of The Living Tradition magazine.