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Assembly Lane Assembly Lane
Album: Northbound
Label: Cartwheel Records
Tracks: 11

Based in Newcastle but variously originating from Somerset, Lincolnshire and Connecticut, this four-piece. Tom Kimber (mandolin, harmony vocal), Niles Krieger (fiddle, harmony and lead vocals), Bevan Morris (double bass) and Matthew Ord (guitar, lead and harmony vocals), have been making waves on the contemporary folk scene over the last couple of years, building up to the release of their debut album.

Save for four instrumentals, three mandolin and fiddle driven tunes by Kimber (‘Mind The Gap’, ‘Northbound ‘and ‘Fivefold’) and a cover of Bill Monroe’s ‘Road To Columbus’, all the material is traditional numbers, drawing on both British and American sources, both folk and bluegrass, opening with ‘The Hills of Mexico’, a mountain music ballad sourced from Dylan’s Basement Tapes Bootleg series and, sometimes known as ‘The Buffalo Skinners’ (it’s about an 1873 buffalo hunt on the southern plains), first recorded by Guthrie back in 1945. Also sourced from The Basement Tapes (although also recorded by Dylan back in 1962) , ‘Ain’t No More Cane’ is another familiar number (there’s even a fine version by Ian Gillan), although more commonly known as ‘Ain't No More Cane on The Brazos’, a traditional prison work song from the South, although somewhat prettified in the arrangement here.

Firmly entrenched on home soil, ‘The Fair Flower of Northumberland’ gets a mid-tempo waltzing bluegrass treatment while another folk club staple arrives with ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, the tune taken from the Traditional Ballad Airs collected by William Christie. American fiddler Krieger takes vocal lead on ‘1845’, a traditional Indiana number also known as ‘The Morning of 1845’, while the album closes with five and a half minute take on the bluegrass gospel ‘Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Mourn?’ aka ‘Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Moan’ with just a fiddle and bowed bass backing the otherwise a capella vocals, before being joined by Kimber’s mandolin for a sprightly reel finish.

They might want to explore lesser known corners of the folk repertoire next time round, but this serves as a fine introduction to their highly accomplished and versatile playing and engaging vocals.

Mike Davies