Arriving in a hand printed card sleeve, By The Night is the second album from the Norwich-based trio of Christina Alden, Alex Patterson and Noel Dashwood following 2016’s well-received Call Me Home self-funded and recorded at home with Patterson producing. Alden singing lead, there’s no significant deviation from that homespun folksiness that weaves together British and American influences on both traditional numbers and self-penned material, often inspired by books. Cases in point as regards the latter come with opening number ‘The Time Song’, an airy love song built upon a simple pattern of descending guitar and vocal notes inspired by The Time Traveler’s Wife, Patterson’s fiddle adding subtle colour. It’s followed by the second literary inspiration, an intricately picked ‘title track, Dashwood’s dobro bringing pine-scented echoes of American backwoods folk, written after reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus while on a trip to India.
Two American traditionals follow, the trio providing new music for the rustic-hued leaving song ‘Bonnie Blue Eyes’ with fiddle to the fore. It ends with a burst of close harmony a capella, an approach they extend to the entirety of ‘Red Rocking Chair’, even though their version was inspired by recordings by fiddlers Bruce Molsky and Brittany Haas.
A couple of numbers further down the line, inspired by a version by bluegrass outfit Crooked Still, ‘Railroad’ is another drawn from the same musical well, dobro evoking the wheels rolling on the tracks while Patterson provides some frisky fiddle.
Back on this side of the ocean, the lively strummed ‘Blow The Wind’ with its percolating fiddle stems from a Tyneside air, albeit with the trio writing new music and second verse, a remodelling they also adopt to good effect on the familiar ‘Ten Thousand Miles’, considerably changing the melody and rearranging the lyrics to make it very much their own.
The three remaining numbers are all self-penned, one of which, ‘The Nerves’, is a coaxingly gentle dobro and fiddle instrumental by Dashwood, apparently written to combat stage nerves and playing a fretless instrument. Based on real events, the sprightly, breezy playing of ‘The Cobbler’s Daughter’ is somewhat at odds with the fact that it’s based on the story of a couple who went missing in the Swiss Alps in 1942 while tending their cattle, their bodies not discovered until 2017 with the melting of the glacier, bringing their daughter’s ceaseless search to an end aged 79.
Finally, there’s ‘Kingfish’, a gently rippling number written after watching a David Attenborough documentary, the lyrics detailing how they swim upstream and circle around in the same spot, the musical arrangement with its guitar and pulsing fiddle mirroring their actions.
Their debut was greeted as a breath of fresh air, and this is another you’ll want to inhale deeply.
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Artists’ website: www.aldenpattersonanddashwood.com
‘The Time Song’ – live: