Album: Back to the 1780s
Label: Appel
Tracks: 13

This rather epic approach to what is effectively late baroque music wouldn't be out of place on the soundtrack of a show like 'Game of Thrones'. It's almost like J.S. Bach woke up to find his normal chamber orchestra had been replaced in the night with the likes of Cross Harbour and the Southern Tenant Folk Union. The end result is nothing short of spectacular.

The musicianship is of a high quality and the skill behind these arrangements becomes clear within the opening phrases of the album. These elements combine to make melodies borne out of the late 1700s feel relevant and contemporary. After just a few listens the tunes start to feel as familiar as those heard in any session with the addition of clever harmony and an exploration of texture that lifts them beyond the ordinary.

It is great to hear the reedy qualities of the baritone and soprano sax in this context. They seem to augment the accordion in its upper and lower ranges, providing a satisfying bass to balance the violin and bagpipes. The result is a big sound drawn from a varied palette.

So much great folk music comes to us as hand-me-down melodies given a facelift in the fashion of the time, and Wor have taken care to share the provenance of the tunes, giving the dates and composers of the original works in the album sleeve. Where the personality of the collective shines through on the CD this spills over into the sleeve notes as the band have left us with a summary of their thoughts for each track. It was fascinating to learn that some of the manuscripts containing these works were only rediscovered in the last few decades.

It's difficult to offer criticism as the group have created a genuinely magical offering that breathes life into neglected tunes. After listening to these 13 tracks on repeat, each one offering a unique flavour, I'm desperate for more. Another album of arrangements by Wor simply can't come soon enough and I would be intrigued to hear a suite of original compositions by the band.

Lee Cuff