One of the most delightful and breezily refreshing acts current treading the folk circuit, the Norwich trio, guitarist Christina Alden, fiddler Alex Patterson and dobro player Noel Dashwood, return with their third album, a combination of eight new numbers, both self-penned and traditionally-based, and an extended rework of an instrumental from their debut. Waterbound was recorded live in just ten hours with, save for one number, just two takes (of which they used the first), no edits or overdubs.
They open in fine style with Alden on lead for the circling guitar pattern and swaying melody of ‘Seven Years’, a number inspired by the traditional ‘The Rambling Sailor’ and setting the watery and journey themes that flow throughout. It’s followed by the slightly longer rework of Patterson’s ‘The Old Priory’, an infectious tempo shifting instrumental inspired by his old family home in Suffolk which, if the track is any indication, must have been a lively place to live.
Opening with an urgent fiddle line before the strummed guitar and dobro arrive, ‘Winter Came’, again robustly sung by Alden, has its inspiration in seeing three trapped House Buntings trying to escape through a glass window during a trip to North Africa in January 2019, serving to prompt a song about freedom of movement with its discovery of new horizons and the positive aspects of migration.
Given an a capella arrangement featuring all three voices and some foot stomps, the title track is a traditional number learned from California bluegrass outfit Good ‘Ol Persons that nicely illustrates the breadth of the trio’s musical influences, drawing on both English and American traditions. Shifting from the North Carolina references here to the waterways of Norfolk, Dashwood contributes and sings lead on the fingerpicked ‘The Broads In December’ which, as you might, surmise details the landscape at its quietest and most solitary, although the uplifting arrangement is far from subdued or confined.
Alden returns to front the part-traditional ‘Little Red Canoe’ whereby they add a new chorus, tune and extra words to ‘The Gumtree Canoe’, a bluegrass/plantation river song dating from at least 1847 and apparently part of the blackface minstrel tradition, previously also the title track of a John Hartford album.
The second of Patterson’s instrumentals comes with ‘The Dyeing Room’, a brisk fiddle reel written for his mother, who makes textiles with dyed fabrics, and named for her workplace, then it’s back to a capella, this time with handclaps, for a brief rendition of the traditional old time hymnal ‘Starry Crown’ (one of several with the same title, this the one about hoping for a better heavenly life after hard times on Earth and bashing Satan around the head with a walking stick), most recently popularised by the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
They end on a shanty note with another traditional, a rousing thigh slapper take on ‘Blow Boys Blow’, with all three singing, Dashwood picking the dobro and Patterson’s fiddle flying fast and free. Book a passage and get on board at once.
Artists’ website: www.aldenpattersonanddashwood.com
‘My Little Red Canoe’ – live: