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Will Finn and Rosie Calvert Will Finn and Rosie Calvert
Album: Beneath This Place
Label: Haystack
Tracks: 11

The first thing that strikes you listening to this album is the energy and synergy of its two creators Rosie Calvert and Will Finn, a husband and wife duo based in the North East, who have an accessible enthusiasm in the way they perform and present their tracks. Their character manages to impose itself right from the get go and makes me immediately want to like them, which is an unusual quality to be able to convey through music alone.

The two are perhaps most known for their half of celebrated acapella folk quartet 'The Teacups' and this is their first solo album and crowd funded venture to date. With it they bring their own unique sound to the fore with bold arrangements and instrument choices, alongside their more regular brand of stunning vocal harmonies - unaccompanied, uncluttered, open pieces that give space to their beautifully balanced tones and obvious vocal talents.

Another element that soon becomes apparent is the pushing of boundaries that runs a seam through this album - this will doubtless challenge some people (dare I call them the 'folk police' ??) Personally, I appreciate music that confronts convention and makes you stop and listen, and this album certainly does that, mostly within the swapping the usually associated calypso tunes of the steel drum to that of the European tunes on the album. I must admit though that I found myself having a bit of a 'marmite' response to its use - some tracks intriguing, others not so much - but either way I found it interesting and engaging which is really what you want when listening to something for the first time or times thereafter.

There is a shanty like rousing quality to the opening track-'The Banks of Sacramento', a song learned by the pair from traditional American singer Jeff Warner, which I feel lends itself really well to the light and sunny touch of the steel drum. Dave Golder's 'January Man 'shows an interesting starkness of arrangement; the tones of the piano and steel drum having a similar openness, with effective playing from Sam Partridge on the whistle in accompaniment. I really enjoyed the skipping percussion on Calvert's track 'Scampo', a 'diddling' track written after a conversation about the Italian singular noun for Scampi!

The piano arrangement and Calvert's voice are particularly of note on 'The Cottages Reply'- a song by Frank Mansell and Chris Wood about connections to hearth, land and home that provides the inspiration for the album title.

Where I feel the pair's strength lies is in their close harmony singing. Their arrangement of the well-known ballad 'Paddy's Lamentation' shows complex, interweaving harmonies complementing the song and each other's voices beautifully. Likewise, on the closing track 'Crossing of the Bar', adapted from Tennyson's metaphoric poem about death.

The duo are set to perform extensively on the circuit this summer touring the album, where I'd say it be a great idea to catch them live and appreciate their unique approach.

Emma Marshall