NICK WYKE & BECKI DRISCOLL – Cold Light (English Fiddle CD04)

Cold LightI’m sure that Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll won’t mind me saying that they have taken a big step with this album – they all but admit it themselves. Their previous outing was built on rural poetry from their native Devon but Cold Light is as far from that as you could imagine. The name of their label gives you a clue to their first love but their musical palette is much expanded, not only by what they play but by the instruments that their guests bring with them.

The sequencing of the album follows their familiar pattern with eight of the thirteen tracks being instrumentals so the opening track is a tune of Becki’s, ‘The Knitting Reel’, which is decidedly funky and that comes as something of a surprise. Next is Nick’s song, ‘Who’s Crying Now?’. Wow. This is a song about struggling with addiction; it’s a big song and Nick brings a big voice to it – mightily impressive.

Traditional music finally gets a grip with two traditional tunes, ‘Tie The Petticoat Tighter’ and ‘The Triumph’. Both have their origins in the West Country although the latter is well known as a dance tune all over the country. ‘Halo’ is Becki’s song about abuse – but it seems clear to me that it’s about sexual abuse and the church in particular. I’m sure Becki will tell me if I’m wrong. By now you’re probably settled in but ‘La Folia’ will unsettle you again. Here we have a stately old European musical form given a modern Latin twist.

The only traditional lyric comes with a version of ‘Riddles Wisely Expounded’. Nick and Becki have provided a new tune and an extraordinary arranged topped by Josh Westrip’s trumpet and David Faulkner’s English bagpipes. The title track is a gorgeous tune by Becki leading into her song, ‘Winter’. The two fit together perfectly. The last song is another original, ‘The Last Waltz Of The Evening’, a tribute to the dead of two world wars and Nick and Becki give it a classic, almost theatrical, treatment with trumpet, flugelhorn, French horn and accordion. Just so we don’t go home sad they finish with the bouncy ‘Boscastle Breakdown’.

Cold Light is a surprising album in many ways. It feels as though Nick and Becki have completed their apprentice piece, placed it in front of us and said “what do you think of that, then?”. Me, I like it.

Dai Jeffries

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‘La Folia’ – live: