SIMON CARE AND GARETH TURNER – Two’s Up Two (Talking Elephant TECD478)

Two's Up TwoWay, way back in 1997 two bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young melodeon players got together to record an album, Two’s Up. Distinguished careers intervened and it wasn’t until 2022 that Simon Care and Gareth Turner got together to record a follow up. By this time Gareth was seriously ill but he got through the sessions – just in time as it turned out. The two records have now been brought together as Two’s Up Two.

The original set saw support from Nick Quarmby on bass, percussion and bodhran from Steve Crickett and Garrick Nelson with Phil Beer producing and providing all the other instruments. The support musicians are used sparingly but when they are it is to great effect. The original set opens with Gareth’s ‘Streetfayre’, a solid tune heavy on the bass end of the bellows. My choice would have been with a set with a bit more fizz which is provided by a pair of jigs from Simon.

Having made their opening statements the duo start to have some fun. First a set of Morris tunes then ‘Les Mystere Des Box Vulgaire’ – you had to be around in 1997 to get the joke. Simon wrote ‘Loose Hornpipe/Mosquito Coast’ and Gareth composed ‘Rocky Road To Pitsford’, a real finger-tangler of a tune with bodhran as a possible clue to its inspiration. ‘The Diggle Stagger’ is a marvellous medley of traditional tunes beginning with ‘Swallowtails’. I lost count shortly after that although ‘Brighton Camp’ is in there, too. Gareth takes over now with three of the last four sets being down to him including another jokey title, ‘Boeuf Français Gumbo’.

The second disc follows a similar pattern although there are a few borrowed tunes this time around. They settle in with ‘Princess Royal’ which both of them must have played dozens of times. There is a nice staccato bit at the end to bring a smile. The supporters are Nick Ellison on fiddle, Tim Walker on percussion and brass, and the multi-talented Guy Fletcher and Phil Beer. Look them up to see how they all fit into the picture.

The first borrowed set begins with ‘Brilliant Pebbles’ by EII’s Rees Wesson and I learned that Brilliant Pebbles was an early (or perhaps official) name for the Star Wars initiative. It’s grouped here with ‘Mampy Moose’ and ‘Barroom Brawl’, mercifully without its lyrics. Then it’s back to the tradition for ‘Bonnets So Blue/Upton On Severn’, the trad sounding Care/Turner composition, ‘The Gaslight March’ and ‘Webley Twizzle/Highland Mary’, the former being from Bampton. Phil Beer contributed ‘Thomas’ Morris’ and ‘Chasing The Jack’ to the next set which is led off by Gareth’s ‘Goldrush’ and then it’s off into ‘Border Morris Medley’.

Gareth again gets the last word with ‘Battle Before Bedtime/A Reel For Kelly’ – no prizes for guessing the inspiration for those two tunes – and ‘Eliza’s Waltz’ which is preceded by Luke Thomasson’s ‘Midnight On The Water’.

Listening to the two discs back-to-back it’s easy to hear the advances in recording technology over the past two decades and also the evolution of the music of the music over the same period, particularly Tim Walker’s contributions on brass for which Brass Monkey had opened the door. Time simply disappears when listening to part two. Proceeds from the sale of Two’s Up Two will go to the Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton and the album is released on June 21st.

Dai Jeffries

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A blast from the past – ‘Princess Royal’ live at Moulton: