I sometimes wonder if the playing of the concertina should, like practicing the bagpipes, be a regulated solo activity. Bob Copper famously taught himself to play with the beast under his jacket and his arms down the sleeves the wrong way so as not to be heard. That said, Alistair Anderson has done alright with it and both Peter Bellamy and Tony Rose used it successfully as an accompanying instrument. Astonishingly, given his long career, Meanders is Rob Harbron’s first totally solo album, played solely on a vintage Wheatstone Aeola.
Meanders has garnered 5-star reviews already which will leave me as the sole voice crying in the wilderness but I am not fond of the concertina, or the melodeon for that matter, as a solo instrument. Call me unsophisticated if you will but the concertina needs a showman like Anderson or Tim Laycock to stir me. The opening track, ‘The Brink Of July’ does meander a bit although I can hear the roots of something traditional in there as I can in ‘Like A Christmas Tree/Polly In The Wood’. The relative simple ‘One String Jig’ is just that if you can appreciate the idea of a tune ostensibly written for a single string on a fiddle translated to concertina.
The melodies of ‘Midnight Schottisches 1 & 2’ take their time to emerge but emerge they do, blinking in the darkness. The best track for me is ‘Calgarth Hornpipe/Keswick Bonny Lasses/Iron & Coke Hornpipe’. The first two tunes are traditional and are what the concertina was built for and the third is written by Rob in the same style but from here on he is, to my untrained ear, meandering a little too much. But…here’s a strange thing: in ‘The Ship That Never Returned’ I keep hearing hints of Peter Bellamy’s setting of Kipling’s ‘The Looking-Glass’ which apparently came from ‘Just As The Tide Was Flowing’. Is this the folk process in action?
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