Reviews

The DrystonesThe Drystones
Album: A Tale Of Sound And Fury
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12
Website: http://www.thedrystones.co.uk

Though both members of this Somerset-based duo (Ford Collier and Alex Garden) are currently only 18 years old, here they are already releasing their second album. And from its fresh but intensely assured demeanour, you'd easily be deceived into thinking it was the product of rather more experience than their three-year musical career thus far might denote.

Their 2012 debut album was swiftly followed by a 2013 appearance at Glastonbury Festival, and as a result so loyal has been their fanbase that this second album was able to be comfortably crowd-funded through Pledge Music. It's a collection that sparkles with youthful vivacity, mostly consisting of instrumental pieces, of which a good majority were written by one or other of the lads themselves, showing considerable flair and invention and at times (Dumbo and the three-part vignette-series The Fly And The Spiders) a brave experimental bent.

They seem quite as comfortable with "manic and quite tricky" mode (notably on the final set The Queen Victoria) as on more sophisticated expression (a lovely rendition of Damien O'Kane's lyrical tune Seasick Dee), although they seem to have retained the exuberance of their debut and subsequent festival appearances through the credible, truthfully immediate recording. For The Drystones work well together, with Ford's guitar and penny whistle brilliantly complementary to Alex's fiddle; there's a modicum of additional instrumental support from friends Will Lang and Tom Wright (mainly percussion, with some bass and lap steel), some excusable use is also made to multitrack the duo's own instrumental prowess (as on Nailed It, which features six or seven whistles!).

The nearly-all-tune menu is supplemented, and its potential saminess, is alleviated by two vocal tracks: the traditional Van Diemen's Land is given a gritty, driving, almost Tull-like rendition by Alex (and come to think of it, the opening motif even resembles that of A Song For Jeffrey!), while Gillian Welch's Rock Of Ages receives a respectable enough reading by Ford. Altogether, this new album demonstrates that Ford and Alex have plenty of latent potential and - importantly - are already flexing their musical muscles in broadening out nicely from the set-after-set-of-tunesets menu with which they might otherwise be in danger of being constrained.

David Kidman