A Review of the CD
by Crucible

by Crucible

Copyright: WildGoose Studios 2003
(WildGoose Records WGS 315 CD)

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 4/04

There is one crop that never fails.Yes my tomatoes can fail one year, my aubergines the next. Indeed sometimes a crop can fail a WHOLE COUNTRY, as potatoes did 150 years ago across the Irish Sea.

But the one crop that always comes up fresh year-after-year are new folk bands and soloists.True, some of them produce work that is breathtakingly derivative, but often that is to be expected when starting off.

And with Crucible, a foursome based in Sheffield, Northern England, we have some new kids on the block who arrive with their very own sound. What do I mean by that? After all, don't they play the conventional folk instruments and cover material that is in the main familiar to all true fans of the British Folk Tradition?

Yes, that is undeniable. But equally incontrovertible is the fact that they survived my usual litmus paper test: viz. the question that I always pose is, “who do they remind me of?” And the truthful answer here is NOBODY.

It is a nice varied selection of songs and tunes. Push me for a favourite track and I would say Gavin Davenport's assured vocals on a lesser known version of “Poor Man's Labour” : this also features fine melodeon playing from Richard Arrowsmith. I say “lesser known”: truth is it has a different tune to the one I am familiar with! They have married the words to the Cuckoo's Nest morris tune, and a marriage made in heaven it is.

But I fancy were they a pop group and looking to release a single from the album, then the real crowd-pleaser would be “Evening Hymn”, an American Shape Note Hymn. This is SO infectious! And it shows off all four voices, (the two guys and Helena Reynolds and Jess Arrowsmith).

Both women have pleasant light soprano voices and are persuasive fiddle players (Helena also plays the Border Pipes with verve). And then there is Gavin's competent guitar adding another layer to the mix: but it is Richard's outstanding melodeon that sort of sets the imprimatur on the whole Crucible sound.

A pleasant debut album indeed. Buy it in Europe fromwww.musikfolk.com or in North America fromwww.elderly.com and, for other points of the compass, get details from Doug Bailey at WildGoose (e-mail:doug.bailey@wildgoose.co.uk website:www.wildgoose.co.uk)

Any adverse criticism? Not really: but one “curiosity”, I guess. And here I refer to Richard's singing. It interests me in its variety.

On the fine track 3, “Harvest Song” we see him clipping his words, almost like a Chesney Allen to Gavin's Bud Flanagan.Track 8, “Yield, Yield Ye Mighty to the Lord” sees him sing like the more “regular” bass-baritone trad singer we hear in residence in folk clubs up and down the Land. But the aforementioned Track 13 (the Shape Note hymn) sees him adopt a curiously adenoidal tone!

Am I carping here? No emphatically not. All three sounds are very acceptable. Just unusual, that is all, to see/hear a voice change texture and delivery in quite such a small space of time. Quite a chameleon our Richard must be!

And I defend to the death his right to be one.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

Track List:

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