Christina Alden and Alex Patterson are two-thirds of…well you can work that out. Recently, they have been making a name for themselves as a duo – a tour with Show Of Hands, no less – and Hunter is their first album in this format. I listened to it first while doing some other jobs and the time flew past with one line from the title track sticking in my mind: “I’m a hunter now”. Christina and Alex make something complex out of simple ingredients: two voices, guitars, banjo, shruti box and enough strings for a quartet with only Calum McKemmie’s double bass in support.
As you may surmise from the title and Christina’s typical homespun design, nature figures large across the album. The title track, which opens the set, is the story of an almost symbiotic relationship between a grey wolf and a brown bear in the Finnish forests. It’s something that shouldn’t happen but did and the song is a joyful celebration of their “friendship”. ‘My Boy’ is another extraordinary story – that of an Indonesian boy whose floating home was swept away by a storm. He survived drifting alone for eight weeks as “ten ships go passing by”. The monotony is emphasised by Christina’s insistent guitar pattern.
There are two instrumentals, ‘New Year Waltz’ and ‘March’, both recorded live and one lovely traditional song, ‘My Flower, My Companion And Me’, decorated by Christina’s banjo. It’s a classic example of the oral (or possibly e-mail these days) transmission of traditional music with Christina and Alex being the fifth recipients in a line going back to Helen Schneyer.
It’s back to nature with ‘The Fox Song’, the story of a journey made by an Arctic Fox from Norway to Canada mostly across the ice. The melody, introduced by Alex, is almost a shanty. Christina must watch some very interesting television or read scientific journals for fun as the animal was tracked by researchers studying migration and climate change. ‘Land Corridors’ brings us nearer home; a very English sounding tune telling of a very English concern.
‘The Greenland Shark’ takes us back to the ice and cold and tells of an animal which, according to estimates, can live up to 500 years – “I’ll carry these old bones”. Finally, ‘Reed Cutting’ brings Christina and Alex to their own front door in East Anglia with a description of the activities that mark the end of summer: “and sweep the ground and rake the ground” emphasising the need to work closely with the land.
Hunter is an excellent marker for a new chapter in the musical development of two fine young musicians.
Artists’ website: https://christinaaldenandalexpatterson.com/
‘Hunter’ – live at home: