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Two Wild Women Records TWW280

The fourth album from Shropshire based instrumental trio Whalebone combines their Celtic folk essence with elements of rock music, classical and contemporary soundscapes.

Steve Downs (guitars, including a deftly deployed 8-string baritone, mandolin, percussion), Charlotte Watson (guitars, percussion), and Sarah Ibberson (violin, cello) are certainly skilled musicians and imaginative arrangers, easily at their best here in their use of rhythms, textures and woven interplay of stringed parts. Fluently serpentine melodic lead lines and percussive detailing also contribute to creating instrumental music of high sophistication.

Origins, Mog’s Reel, Scarce O’Tatties (an ‘insistent’ Scottish tune about tuber deprivation!), and Tamlin are excellent in their use of melody, movement and rhythm evoking drama and mood. Christchurch Cathedral is a traditional tune arranged for string quartet, equally richly atmospheric and moving, and the intricate content of Ducks On The Roof is reminiscent of Music For A Found Harmonium. These excellent pieces do at times suitably befit the darkly runic referencing and imagery of sylvan interiors and standing stones in the cover artwork.

Where the large free range egg acquires a Curative element is its inclusion of classic guitar rock. Aerosmith’s Dream On is classically reworked in a reasonably original interpretation but the Stones’ Paint it Black (albeit morphing into their version of the trad. Devil In The Kitchen) and Eric Clapton’s Layla, although adroitly arranged and played, jar relative to the quality of their original compositions and arrangements of traditional material. This tributary stuff, however heartfelt, is perhaps best confined to live outings and/or recordings.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.