ALDEN PATTERSON AND DASHWOOD – By The Night (own label)

By The NightArriving in a hand printed card sleeve, By The Night is the second album from the Norwich-based trio of Christina Alden, Alex Patterson and Noel Dashwood following 2016’s well-received Call Me Home self-funded and recorded at home with Patterson producing. Alden singing lead, there’s no significant deviation from that homespun folksiness that weaves together British and American influences on both traditional numbers and self-penned material, often inspired by books. Cases in point as regards the latter come with opening number ‘The Time Song’, an airy love song built upon a simple pattern of descending guitar and vocal notes inspired by The Time Traveler’s Wife, Patterson’s fiddle adding subtle colour. It’s followed by the second literary inspiration, an intricately picked ‘title track, Dashwood’s dobro bringing pine-scented echoes of American backwoods folk, written after reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus while on a trip to India.

Two American traditionals follow, the trio providing new music for the rustic-hued leaving song ‘Bonnie Blue Eyes’ with fiddle to the fore. It ends with a burst of close harmony a capella, an approach they extend to the entirety of ‘Red Rocking Chair’, even though their version was inspired by recordings by fiddlers Bruce Molsky and Brittany Haas.

A couple of numbers further down the line, inspired by a version by bluegrass outfit Crooked Still, ‘Railroad’ is another drawn from the same musical well, dobro evoking the wheels rolling on the tracks while Patterson provides some frisky fiddle.

Back on this side of the ocean, the lively strummed ‘Blow The Wind’ with its percolating fiddle stems from a Tyneside air, albeit with the trio writing new music and second verse, a remodelling they also adopt to good effect on the familiar ‘Ten Thousand Miles’, considerably changing the melody and rearranging the lyrics to make it very much their own.

The three remaining numbers are all self-penned, one of which, ‘The Nerves’, is a coaxingly gentle dobro and fiddle instrumental by Dashwood, apparently written to combat stage nerves and playing a fretless instrument. Based on real events, the sprightly, breezy playing of ‘The Cobbler’s Daughter’ is somewhat at odds with the fact that it’s based on the story of a couple who went missing in the Swiss Alps in 1942 while tending their cattle, their bodies not discovered until 2017 with the melting of the glacier, bringing their daughter’s ceaseless search to an end aged 79.

Finally, there’s ‘Kingfish’, a gently rippling number written after watching a David Attenborough documentary, the lyrics detailing how they swim upstream and circle around in the same spot, the musical arrangement with its guitar and pulsing fiddle mirroring their actions.

Their debut was greeted as a breath of fresh air, and this is another you’ll want to inhale deeply.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: www.aldenpattersonanddashwood.com

‘The Time Song’ – live:

ALDEN, PATTERSON AND DASHWOOD – Call Me Home (own label)

Call Me HomeWorking out of Norwich, the trio (Christine, Alex and Noel, respectively) are already rightly being showered with praise for their debut album, Call Me Home, with its stripped down Americana etched on mandolin, violin, dobro and guitar.

It’s clear from the assurance on display that they’ve not come to this without experience and, while the bio and website offer no background, a little digging reveals they’ve individually played in three other Norwich acoustic outfits, The Woodland Creatures (Christine), Murphy’s Lore (Alex) and Dumbfoundus (Noel) and have, as such, gigged extensively around the local scene as well as recording This, though, is their first time working together and it’s definitely a fruitful union, marring folk influences from both sides of the Atlantic.

Mostly original material and primarily sung by Christina, the title track gets the ball rolling in liltingly tumbling Appalachian crystal waters mood, her yearning pure vocals beautifully complemented by Noel’s rippling Dobro and Alex’s aching violin. This is followed by two of the three traditional tunes, firstly a gently lullabying ‘Sweet and Low’ and then ‘The Riddle Song,’ the 15th century English folk song also known as ‘I Gave My Love A Cherry’ that was transported to the Appalachians by settlers, here shading into the instrumental coda of ‘Bina’s Jig’.

Returning to the self-penned, ‘By The Sea’ is a midtempo shuffle with some neat mandolin by Patterson picking over Dashwood’s Dobro, the aquatic theme flowing over into both the appropriately rippling rhythms of ‘Water Song’, a bittersweet lyric that offsets the imagery of cleansing with the note that boats don’t always return to land, and the more bluegrassy ‘Ferryman’s Court’, which, Noel taking lead, is an upbeat, strummed homage to the Broads and happy thoughts of living next to water, even if “The swans are beautiful, yet slightly aggressive.”

Handing the vocal baton back to Christina, ‘The Moon Song’ has her calling to mind Lesley Duncan as her breathy vocals swirl around the dobro and fiddle, the last of the original numbers coming with the brief instrumental ‘The Old Priory’ before closing up shop with a lively reading of the traditional North Carolina mountain music folk tune, ‘Mole In The Ground’, the familiar banjo setting replaced here by dobro, fiddle and guitar. All served up in Alden’s handprinted card sleeve artwork , this is a real delight and hopefully the first of many more to follow.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website: www.aldenpattersonanddashwood.com

‘Call Me Home’:

JESS MORGAN – Edison Gloriette (Drabant Music)

Edison GlorietteTwo years and one EP on from Langa Langa, released through the Norwegian label, the breathy-voiced Norwich-based singer-songwriter returns with Edison Gloriette her fourth and finest album to date, a relaxed and assured collection of eleven unfussily arranged, thematically-linked acoustic tracks that again speak to her English and Americana influences.

As with her debut, it was recorded in Bergen, in a cabin studio with returning producer HP Gunderson (who also contributes guitar, pedal steel and organ) and engineer Daniel Birkeland (also on bass, Hammond and guitar) with Steve Maclachlan adding percussion, Hannah Sanders backing vocals and Noel Dashwood providing dobro on two numbers back in the UK.

Her storytelling is as fine tuned as ever, opening with ‘The Longest Arm’, a beautifully observed, Edward Hopper-inspired vignette about a brief encounter between a man (“skin pulled tight in the wind”) and a waitress in the café of the album title (it’s actually a combination of two cinema names) with its pictures of “dead actors and Italian stars”, a spark passing between them as she “ leans in closer, her hair soft on his face. She wipes his lip clean with a napkin and smells like pancakes.”

Next up comes the Latin-tinged swaying rhythms of the Superman-referencing ‘Don’t Meet Your Heroes’, a cautionary message about not being blinded by appearances and awe in matters of the heart as “sweet ideas stink like Kryptonite that slaps away the hands that made all tomorrow’s plans” and you may well end up spending the night alone “sewing spangles on his clothes” because “suddenly there’s phone boxes everywhere you look.”

Featuring Dashwood, the achingly lovely ‘Still In Fashion’ is a pessimistic song about the inevitably of crushed love (“my hopes go down with the blinds. We know heartbreak is still the fashion. Long may it never show up on time”) while, Morgan on harmonica and Sanders on harmonies, ‘Hymn In The Morning’ conjures similar fears as she sings “will there be no one but me, will there be nobody else?” and, likewise on ‘Tell Me What The Trouble Is’, the protagonist can sense the relationship falling apart “with waning grace” because of a reluctance to talk things out (“there’s quiet in everything you do and you think it’s just a little balling yourself up, but you’re bringing the whole thing down with you. We never used to be silent”).

By contrast, the piano-accompanied ‘Come To The Opera With Me, Loretta’ is about the narrator seeking to persuade Loretta to save her faltering relationship with the volatile Ronnie (“I’ll make you my case for staying together”) and, while introducing the new character of Debbie, is actually Morgan’s reworking of a scene from the Oscar-winning romcom Moonstruck.

Again featuring Sanders and harmonica, the catchy rootsy strummed pop ‘Skate While You’re Skinny’ has the air of early Joni Mitchell in its advice to “always keep your lover in mind”, “stay out of the corner where you don’t belong” and “ if the wind is blowing, put your fists up. Come out when you’re bloody, whether won or lost.”

Featuring soulful dobro, the puttering bluesy ‘Red Rubies’ was apparently inspired by the true story of a bird eating man (the title referring to drops of blood), recast as a metaphor for not crippling another’s spirit (“I would not crush your feathers,. those gentle wings, for to fly”), followed, in turn, by the reflective ‘In Your Life’, sparse guitar accompanying lyrics about not letting the moment to express your feelings pass by and remain a remembered regret.

The slow waltzing ‘A Hundred Years Old’ returns to the relationships theme touched on with Heroes, but on a more positive note about keeping love constant even when your partner finds public expressions of affection awkward (“I’m holding your coats never holding your hand”) as the character sings “oh tangle me up in the mess that you make. I’ve already rolled up my sleeves” and “when you strike up the band with your red jacket on I wait for the beat of the drum.”

Nodding to living there in 2015, the album ends with ‘In Brooklyn’, a shuffling, steel-streaked reminiscence of a time in the character’s life when “so many things we took for granted”, a time “when we didn’t need the F-train or anyone, we’d take our blessings and we decorate up the second floor” before the “tears that were spilled on the Brooklyn Quilt, packing the apartment up into boxes.” Although such lines lead you to presume things were happier then than they are now, the song closes on an warm upbeat note of reverie (“now you can tell it back to me, beginning with Brooklyn, when we were living in Brooklyn”), a poignantly affecting end to a poignantly affecting album.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.jessmorgan.co.uk

‘In Brooklyn’ live: