The line-up having expanded from their Cautionary Tales debut a couple of years back, TRADarrr here comprise original core members Greg Cave, Marion Fleetwood, Guy Fletcher, Mark Stevens and mastermind PJ Wright alongside Tim Harries (bass), Gemma Shirley (fiddle, piano, vocals), Mark Jolley (bass, viola), and Phil Bond on accordion, although the latter two have left since the recording, banding together for a second collection of, as their name suggests, arrangements of traditional folk songs.
I was much impressed by their debut, but this is an even stronger set, kicking off in sterling form with 'Winter Winds', the origins of which you will Google in vain, but suffice to say serves as a terrific opening folk rock gambit with descending chords, Cave on lead and Wright providing study electric guitar. The tale of a two lovers outwitting the girl's lawyer father to get his unwitting blessing on their marriage, 'The Crafty Lover' cranks it up a throaty guitar notch for one of those lurching arrangements that typified early Steeleye albums, although slightly less of a blindfolded juggernaut.
The third of the Cave/Stewart arrangements sees Fleetwood and Cave share lead, the former also providing the multi-tracked strings, for 'Dream Not Of Love', a tumblingly melodic arrangement of lyrics by 19th Century poet John Clare and an infectiously poppy number that rattles around the brain for ages afterwards.
In contrast to its usual stark setting, Stevens solo colliery band cornet heralds PJ Wright's arrangement of 'Rap Her To Bank', a song which has its roots in the coal mining areas of the north east and concerns a miner's last day before he retires, the electric guitar, pedal steel and organ adding a soulful air to the resigned nature of the lyrics while Pete Scrowther adds a final verse bemoaning how the country's mining communities were "brought to their knees by politicians' malice."
One of the staples of traditional folk, 'Lowlands of Holland' has seen numerous recordings, but, while remaining generally faithful to the source, Fleetwood and Wright's slow, melancholic arrangement inspirationally bookends things with 'The Water Is Wide', both as instrumental prelude and song coda, both featuring Stevens yearning Northern brass styled cornet.
Fletcher takes lead on the first his two arrangements, a full blooded reading of 'The Golden Vanity', interpolated with an instrumental break from 'Brace and Augor', one of his fiddle and mandolin tunes. Next up it's the turn of Shirley, singing her own pulsing arrangement 'The Drowned Lover', her initial pizzicato fiddle work giving way to a fuller sound as she, Fleetwood and Fletcher join sonic forces backed by muscular electric guitars and some meaty baritone guitar from Wright.
They keep the rock beast in traction for Cave's reading of 'The Bonny Lass of Anglesey' before Fleetwood takes over again for a mandolin spangled, sexed-up version of 'The Cuckoo's Nest' that ensures no one's going to miss the euphemism of its title.
There's just one wholly instrumental track, Fletcher getting frisky with a suitably cider-swigging, hay baling fused arrangement of 'Madame Bonaparte/The Golden Eagle', the lurching, reggae-tinged latter turning the spotlight on his mandolin.
It's sandwiched between the two other Cave arrangements, a bass throbbing 'The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington', a rare case of thwarted love having a happy ending, that again calls to mind the driving rock approach of Span in their Please To See The King pomp. The second closes up shop with another trad staple, a slow waltzing, piano accompanied 'Spencer The Rover' that gathers to a swelling all hands on deck finale.
Recalling the folk rock pioneers of the late 60s, but also feeling as fresh as contemporary traditional revisionists such as Seth Lakeman, if and when Fairport finally decide to put their feet up and retire, TRADarrr are there ready and able to take up the baton.
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