HARBOTTLE & JONAS – Wild Goose (Brook View Records BVR004)

Wild GooseTheir seventh studio album (alongside two EPs, a live set and a collaboration with Reg Meuross), over the course of eight songs David and Freya embrace theme of family, nature, and societal shifts as they journey through the mystical and the mythical, he on various guitars, cittern, banjo and glockenspiel, she behind her piano and harmonium with Jamie Gould on drums and assorted contributions from fiddler Richard Trethewey, Andy Tyner on trumpet and Freya’s mother Jenny Jonas adding vocals and oboe.

Wild Goose is bookended by two Freya numbers, the first being the bluesy and dramatically doomy, fiddle and banjo-tinged traditional styled ‘Carry On You Fishermen’, in which a woman whose love has left her ventures over land a sea to find him, her lack of success compounded by dark thoughts (“If I catch him in a crowd/Will he be there alone?/For I know his heart grows lone and weary/But I daren’t speak these words out loud”) and an uncaring fate (“The world carries on like it always has”), though it does make you wonder what the train journey between Exeter and Newton Abbott must be like to have inspired it.

The first of four by David, evoking musical comparisons to Seth Lakeman, ‘Loki’ brings a fresh interpretation to the God of Mischief from Norse Mythology, with “A heart that’s filled with treachery/Fit only for the trickster/The shapeshifter, scheming one/The serpent tongue”, which may evoke thoughts of Ragnorak (“When the day, it does come/Under burning clouds of fire/Darkness and light, as one”) but which I couldn’t help hearing as a comment on contemporary politics.

Written initially as a lullaby for their daughter, Rosalie, who had got to the stage of refusing to go to sleep, the title track takes the idea of resisting Morpheus to spend more time in the waking world and runs with it as a call to keep the wild place within us and never lose our connection with the landscape, the spine-tingling title track couched in a simple anthemic folk melody with harmony vocals that feel as if they’re being sung like some tribal calling from a mountain top overlooking the valley.

David’s second is ‘Travelling Family Band’, a playful harmonium, brushed snares, fiddle and fingerpicked dive into the delights of life on the road in a van, inspired by the duo’s early days of playing 150 gigs a year, travelling across Ireland and Europe, forging the bond they now have (“You stay strong when the days feel long/And carry us both on your shoulders/In the name of love”, the track timely released to news that the line-up’s about to get a new addition. With a second child awaiting in the wings, Freya’s ‘God’s Idea’ was written while awaiting their first, a saloon piano swayer that reflects on the divine gift of new life growing in the womb and how “when you arrive, clean and new on this land/We will hold you with aching hands”.

David can often be found wandering Dartmoor with their dog and, as such, the folksy strummed, double-tracked and hummingly sung ‘As I Walk Into The Day’ conjures one such walk from South Brent through Bellever Forest to Widecombe and back home under the “low hanging sun” , a pastoral hymnal number ideally best listened to lying in a field to the sounds of dragonfly wings beating. His ambulatory pleasures and delights in the heightened oxygen levels WimHof method of breathing feed into his final song, the declamatory journey of self-discovery that is the marching beat ‘I Am The Captain Of My Soul’ opening with the double-tracked a capella “I am the captain of my soul/I am the master of my mind/I am a warrior of the light” and, as fiddle skirls, proceeding to talk of letting peace and hope line your path and “rise up like rooted trees” to “meet the sunrise”, put the pieces back together, pull away from the darkness and “find my sense of wonder again”.

And so it ends, back with Freya’s piano ballad Where Do You Stand?, a recognition of how societal shifts are calling for rethinks of old behaviours and familial patterns but of embracing the positive changes that can be wrought rather than clinging to a damaged status quo (“Where do you stand, my brother?/When all that you know is wrong,/When they are the ones who taught you what to sing/Now they tell you to change your song”), of finding our place in the new now and not hiding way when it “comes to seek out your fears”.

It’s worth mentioning that the early Celtic Christians referred to the Holy Spirit not as a peaceful dove but as Ah Geadh-Glas, a Wild Goose, passionate, noisy, and courageous and symbolic of how the divine spark cannot contained, leading believers on to new adventures. This album is one wild goose chase you really should embrace.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: www.harbottleandjonas.com

‘Carry On You Fishermen’ – official video:

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