Mischief Afoot are a trio of English musicians based in the Cotswolds and I think it’s fair to say that John Davis, Becky Dellow and Jeff Gillett are best known for the musicians they have worked with over the years. Their repertoire is largely traditional or tunes that have a known composer but have travelled far out of their hands – such names as Michael Coleman, Martin Mulhaire and Paddy Fahy. Their sound is all acoustic and delicate, partly because one of the two lead instruments is Davis’ recorder which could be easily lost under Dellow’s violin. Gillett is the soul of restraint as an accompanist although he gets to shine as the trio’s vocalist and, as ever with Doug Bailey’s productions, the elements are perfectly balanced.
That’s not to say that there is no excitement. Mischief Afoot have a penchant for speeding tunes up, sometimes beyond what is entirely reasonable. The first time they do this is with the set ‘Cats Of Camazan/Pressed For Time’ which is a whirlwind of notes and repeat the trick with ‘The Star Of Munster/Pigeon On The Gate’. They slow down ‘Tell Her I Am/Out On The Ocean’ allowing Becky to play some surprising sliding fiddle notes.
‘The Deserter’ is the best known of the songs and, although the story is familiar, Jeff has a version with elements that I haven’t heard before and that’s always a pleasant surprise. ‘Blow The Candles Out’ is a song I haven’t heard for a long time and a tale of love that’s definitely requited unlike that of the protagonists in the lovely ‘Bridget O’Malley’. ‘The Golden Willow Tree’ is an American take on ‘Golden Vanity’ that is becoming more and more popular and ‘Jimmy And Nancy’ is another sailor-coming-home-from-the-sea story, although he doesn’t try to trick her in this one.
If you like your folk music pure and uncluttered, Mischief Afoot is definitely for you. Come to think of it, that’s true of pretty much all of the WildGoose catalogue.
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‘Tell Her I Am/Out On The Ocean’ – live: