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King's Gambit King's Gambit
Album: From One To Another
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 10

King's Gambit is an unpretentiously good-time outfit hailing from Northampton. Their stock-in-trade is rocking acoustic folk with a strong pulse generated by bass guitar and cello - and rhythm without recourse to drumkit! And from the evidence of From One To Another, their third album, I'm surprised they're not better known.

King's Gambit makes a big sound when you consider they're only a four-piece; the basic texture created by the sounds of guitar and harmonica (Chris Startup, who also sings lead and writes the songs), mandolin/mandola/banjo (Andrew Higgins) and bass (Katie Paton) are filled out by a cello (Helen Turton), whose role is flexible enough to take a melody lead too when required. Several tracks on the album also find Chris Hewett's accordion fleshing out the sound even further. The album gathers together six of Chris Startup's original songs, a rollicking cover of St James Infirmary and three instrumental tracks that veer more towards rock than trad but are none the worse for that (these guys know how to party!). Those original songs run a gamut from the trad-sounding opener A Maiden Fair to the rip-roaring forebitter Into The Rolling Sea by way of the boisterous pugilism of People Versus, the darker, Kubrick-inspired Clockworks and the double-edged environmental concerns of The Only One and Mary Jane; clearly Chris's mission is to make us stop and think rather than just mindlessly footstomp our way into oblivion. King's Gambit make left-field music with a conscience, but almost always with an interesting angle to their musical arrangements.

The King's Gambit sound has by this album three matured into quite a distinctive beast, even if there's also a sense that their sound is still developing and fine-tuning. Nevertheless, the band themselves claim this is the album that provides the full picture they've been working towards for half a decade, and I think I can hear why, for there's a sense of triumph about their music-making here.

David Kidman