WILL FINN & ROSIE CALVERT – Beneath This Place (Haystack HAYCD012)

Beneath This PlaceIt’s not often that you hear British traditional music played on steel pans but that’s what you’ll find here. Will and Rosie are half of The Teacups, known for their unaccompanied harmony but on Beneath This Place, their debut album as a duo, they expand their musical palette

The opening track comes as something of a surprise. ‘Banks Of Sacramento’ is a capstan shanty, possibly of German origin, from the days of the gold rush and Stephen Foster may have had a hand in it, or even nicked parts of it. Will and Rosie take it at a cracking pace that they couldn’t possibly keep up for a whole album. It may be my age but I find most of the songs to be comfortably familiar. There’s Dave Goulder’s ‘January Man’, Graeme Miles’ ‘The Shores Of Old Blighty’, ‘Paddy’s Lamentation’, Tennyson’s ‘Crossing The Bar’ and ‘The Cottager’s Reply’. They are all nicely done and the multi-tracked ‘Crossing The Bar’ is masterful but they can’t muster any of the venom that Chris Wood brought to Frank Mansell’s poem. Then again, who could?

The instrumental selections are more adventurous. The first set pairs the traditional ‘MacDonald’s’ with a Brazilian choro piece, ‘Tico Tico’, and the steel pans are at the forefront with Evan Carson’s percussion doing sterling work in support. Rosie’s two compositions are both a bit off the wall: ‘Scampo’ is modern mouth music sung over piano and percussion and ‘Gill’s Jig’, written for her mother’s birthday, cleverly incorporates multiple musical styles. Will composed one set, ‘Twenty Months At Sea/The Priory’,  and the final set pairs ‘Midwinter Waltz’ by Larry Edelman (not the most famous composer in the world) and complete with gramophone crackle with ‘Into The Unknown’, the theme from Over The Garden Wall.

It took me a while to settle into Beneath This Place. The playing and singing is excellent and I should mention Sam Partridge’s flute and whistles here. Perhaps my initial disappointment at the selection of songs was overstated – with repeated plays they provide moments of familiarity to contrast with the more adventurous material.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website: https://willfinnandrosiecalvert.com/

‘Paddy’s Lamentation’ – live: