The Lancashire HustlersThe Lancashire Hustlers
Album: Sing Walter de la Mare (EP)
Label: Steep Hill
Tracks: 4

This oddly-named London-based acoustic duo comprising Brent Thorley (guitar, keyboards) and Ian Pakes (drums) has enjoyed a close musical bond and worked together since they were teenagers, and this shows in their attractively moulded close-harmony sound with its echoes of Simon & Garfunkel and gently progressive (but none too musically challenging) aura. Their debut album She Was Just An Opportunist was released back in July, but I don't believe they took the opportunity to send Fatea a copy, more's the pity for I'm sure it would be worth hearing. This new EP comes out in advance of the duo's "autumn/winter UK tour", of which further details are curiously absent from their website. Again, more's the pity, for this enigmatic twosome deserve to be heard more widely. Even so, my reaction to this EP is muted - simply because it feels distinctly incomplete, not just in the sense of half-finished; it has the makings of a more ambitious project, but runs out of steam just as it starts to become interesting. Although in the end I'm not quite convinced that Brent and Ian have completely thought through their response to Mr. de la Mare's poetry, there's enough in these interpretations to tell me that theirs is not based on a mere casual flipthrough of an arbitrary selection of his verses.

Opening setting Autumn shuffles along companionably amidst the fallen leaves, rather than really penetrating through to the intense melancholy of the text. The remaining three settings, all taken from verses from de la Mare's children's books, fare better interpretively: Comfort brings a glistening lazy gait to its imagery of fireside musings; the duo conjures up a suitably sinister portrait of John Mouldy; and the insistent knocking rhythms of Some One well convey the poem's ghostly mysterious clatters and resonances. I feel sure that Brent and Ian will feel the need to have more to say about Mr de la Mare's work in due course.

David Kidman