SOLASTA – A Cure For The Curious (own label SLSTA18)

A Cure For The CuriousA Cure For The Curious is the debut album by the newest trio aiming to take folk music in new directions. Solasta are Elizabeth Flett; a multi-instrumentalist originally from Scotland, on fiddle: Jamie Leeming, a guitarist better known among the jazz fraternity and cellist Hannah Thomas, as much recognised in classical and baroque circles as she is among folk musicians. With such backgrounds you would hardly expect their music to be conventional and you’d be right.

The opening is odd – discordant notes as if they are trying to find how their instruments fit together. Whether they are preparing us for what is to come or just teasing is hard to say but the track settles down into ‘The Plate Smasher’, two tunes by Gavin Marwick, even though the ending wanders off-piste a little. ‘The 5/8 Set’ includes tunes by Phil Cunningham and Gordon Duncan as well as the first original tune on the album, Elizabeth’s ‘The Stolen Jig’.

‘Whitecaps’ is a lovely set combining a tune by Alasdair Taylor and the titular composition by Jamie. The track features his finger-picked acoustic guitar before he’s muscled out the way by the fiddle and cello. He fights back but girl power takes over again and the set ends with wordless vocals. Jamie also gets to lead a pair of reels by Mairearad Green and maintains a strong foundation when the fiddle takes over the melody. The second of the pair is very traditional until the urge to experiment gets the better of them, reminding us that they really do know what they are about.

There are two songs. The first is ‘Bedlam Boys’, credited as traditional, I notice, with a suitably weird opening. ‘Terror Time’ is extensively decorated, particularly with droning cello but the verses are delivered straight except for the chanted “And we’re on the road again” towards the end. It’s difficult to do anything very extreme with a Ewan MacColl song except by performing it badly – he wrote words and a melody and that’s the best way to approach his songs.

I suspect that A Cure For The Curious won’t be to everyone’s taste but it is certainly a spectacular and stylish introduction to a new band.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The 5/8 Set’ – live: