PONS AELIUS – Fire Under The Bridge (own label)

Fire Under The BridgePons Aelius’ second album picks up pretty much where Captain Glen’s Comfort left off. ‘Fire Under The Bridge’ opens the show with three tunes by Jordan Aiken featuring his Highland bagpipes and Callum Younger’s pounding percussion. However, as this album proves, Pons Aelius are no one-trick ponies.

The second track, ‘Charlie Smith’s Recovery’, is the only borrowing in the set. Written by Alexander Taylor Cameron, it features whistles and Sam Partridge’s flute before the pipes come back, rather more gently this time. The first of the two tunes that make up ‘The Ambassador Disaster’ is written by Tom Kimber and features his tenor banjo and Aikin allows him to continue through its partner tune.

Lest we forget that Pons Aelius are as much Newcastle as Scotland we next have ‘Rafa’s’. Aikin wrote ‘The Rafa Benitez Jig’ which is partnered with Alasdair Paul’s ‘Get In The Boot’, possibly a description of the team’s playing style. For no good reason the term “harum-scarum” popped into my mind as I listened! Tom Kimber’s banjo is back for ‘The Nightwalker’, the first half of ‘The Phantom Jake’, a tune by Partridge. Pipes and flute weave in and out of the banjo figure and, unusually, the tune comes to a clear stop before its partner begins.

‘Interlude’ is a far too short piece built around the flute and so evocative of open hills, perhaps just as the sun is going down. Paul’s ‘Five Miles To The Mill’ gives Kimber a turn on the mandolin but the band constantly move the lead around all their instruments. Let’s not forget the solid foundation laid down by Bevan Morris’ double bass and Younger’s kit. I particularly like the way that the mandolin opens ‘Elinor’s’, linking the two tracks. Younger features on bodhran and the whole tune is rather lovely as everyone takes a turn.

The final two sets are ‘The Glen Where The Deer Is Imaginary’ and ‘The Durnamuck Deer Chase’. These may be linked but I get the feeling that the titles are private jokes within the band. Not that it matters, they round off the album in the fine style in which it began.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The Ambassador Disaster’ – live: