Threaded is a young Midlands-based folk trio sporting an unusual complement – an instrumental lineup consisting of clarinet, violin and guitar. They’ve already gained the endorsement of Joe Broughton, in whose Conservatoire Folk Ensemble the three classically-trained musicians have already been involved, with the result that he’s produced their debut album Of What We Spoke. The three musicians together make a thrilling sound, full of presence and character, which reflects both Joe’s extensive expertise as a producer and his key role in encouraging and fostering the musicians’ creativity within the folk idiom. It’s an even more remarkable achievement when you realise that the whole album was recorded live in the studio over the space of only two days, barely three months ago. The dozen tracks comprise a carefully balanced mix of (seven) instrumentals and (five) songs, all self-penned, which together form a valuable and valid showcase of the three musicians’ talents. The first thing you notice about Threaded’s music is their gift for melodic inventiveness within structures which, though sometimes based very loosely on traditional forms and gestures, are nonetheless flexible enough to enable flights of fancy and seemingly random or impromptu twists of mood and rhythm which appear naturally occurring rather than contrived. Good examples of this practice are Captain Markham, where the listener is invited to “imagine a Latino pirate who likes heavy metal…” (!), the eastern-inflected motifs of the pounding Flat 71 and the excitingly episodic perambulation The Courtyard, while Return To Penpole Wood is altogether more relaxed and ruminative, at least at the start.
The songs, which more or less alternate with the non-vocal items, are a thoughtful and unusually interesting bunch, especially considering that the trio’s core status might be considered to be that of instrumentalists. Guitarist/banjoist Jamie Rutherford carries the lead vocal role, and characterfully too, whereas clarinettist Rosie Bott and violinist Ning-ning Li contribute the appealing harmonies and supporting vocals. It would appear from the composition credits that it’s Jamie who’s primarily responsible for the lyrics, and his subject-matter takes in familiar emotions such as the need to leave but longing to stay (the gentle, almost Gillian Welch-like You Will Always Be The One), as well as examining the bond created by friendships (the First-World-War-themed Drafted, with its numb banjo figures) or expressing the regret felt at their loss (Left Off). Strong rhythmic chanting gives Dreamfire, the tale of a fictional member of the Native American Potawatomi Tribe, added authenticity, while Jamie’s setting of Robert Browning’s poem The Pied Piper Of Hamelin is both adept and faithful.
Of What We Spoke is an impressive and stimulating debut disc from three very talented musicians who evidently still have much to give, and the prospect of a followup album is filled with promise.
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