The phrase jazz-folk-rock fusionist is likely to have me approach any album to which it's attached with caution at the very least, if not avoid completely. However, this, the third from West Country multi-instrumentalists Sebastian and Natalie Brice, amply repays my tentative curiosity with eight numbers on which they're variously joined by Dave Smith, the drummer from Robert Plant's current band, cellist Heather Truesdall, pianist Daan Temmink and jazzman Dan Reid on flumpet, which may seem like a typo but is in fact a trumpet/flugelhorn hybrid.
The material features a couple of covers, a children's hymn and five original numbers. Taking that in reverse order, it begins with the atmospheric fingerpicked Angels of Fire and Snow, the title taken from Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh, mystical writings of the Bahá'í faith (a monotheistic religion founded in the 19th century), a song about experiencing the celestial in the everyday which, with its open tuning and harmonies calls to mind CS&N's Wooden ships and Guinevere.
Sonically shape-shifting from delicate filigrees to surges of guitars and drums, warmed by cello and sung by Sebastian, 'True North' is fuelled by the experiences and hopes of parenthood, from images of "waltzing you round the room to Harvest Moon" and pining for days when "we could get in the car and just go somewhere" to the learning to eventually let go foretold in the refrain "but you've got to go your own way/in the footsteps of your father/with the wisdom of your mother."
Cello adorned, piano ballad Garbo's Song has him channelling Lennon on a bittersweet song about masks and true selves (I see the world on your shoulders like nobody told you you're enough"), then Natalie takes over for the breezily sung jazzy swing of Successful with Reid providing the frumpet solo play out.
The last of the self-penned tracks, I Don't Wanna Read The News is a simple Simon & Garfunkel-like number, the title a fairly self-explanatory wish for something lighter in a world filled with grim stories of "sugar-coated promises and grinning guarantees" and when "arbitrary acts of God leave mother s crying, muffled voices in the TV."
Sandwiched in the middle of the album is their take on 'When A Knight Won His Spurs', the old children's hymn written by Jan Struther (aka Joyce Anstruther), the creator of Mrs. Miniver, and set to a folk melody by Vaughan Williams, the duo's slow waltzing version arranged for piano and guitar.
The first of the two covers harks back to 1968, Natalie on lead and Sebastian harmonising and accompanying on acoustic guitar alongside Temmink on accordion for a rather lovely wistful reading of Tom Rush's 'No Regrets', the album ending in similar pared down mode with the pair duetting on Leonard Cohen's melancholic meditation on ageing and desire 'Alexandra Leaving', itself an adaptation of 'The God Abandons Antony' by Greek poet Constantine Cavafy.
Note to PR, next time, don't describe them as jazz-folk-rock fusionist, a simple bloody good will do.
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