Catalysts : Christina Alden (Alden, Patterson & Dashwood)15 July 2020
Alden, Patterson & Dashwood are a trio from Norwich - Christina Alden (vocals/guitar), Alex Patterson (fiddle/vocals/occasional mandolin) and Noel Dashwood (dobro/vocals). The first two are a couple, all three meet up once a week to eat together and play music - there is a deep conviviality in their work, they sound as if they simply find joy in what they do - which is seamlessly blend English traditional music with deep-rooted Americana.
The band's last album, Waterbound, was 'vivid, life-enhancing, and in any rational judgement, essential contemporary folk music'. Live, their interwoven harmonies and instruments reaffirm that view.
Christina Alden made three musically related choices when asked to identify cultural experiences that have shaped her life - one a book that sparked a song, and two albums that have been constant sources of enlightenment through her career.
The book is fantasy story dense with enchantment, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Christina describes her attachment simply, 'it is a novel about magic, love and journey, so beautiful it inspired me to write a song about it called 'By The Night'. The use of imagery and the world created in this book carries you away and makes you want to stay there.'
Next, music. A Larum by Johnny Flynn, was released in 2008. The title is a middle English phrase used by Shakespeare as a stage direction signalling a commotion off stage. Ex-actor Flynn was backed by his band, The Sussex Wit; ecstatic reviews noted the poetic nature of Flynn's lyrics and drew well founded comparisons to early Fairport Convention and Bert Jansch - Rolling Stone used the phrase 'folk-rock theatre' to describe the album.
Christina details its importance to her own writing, 'it's an album that made me think about songwriting and use of language within contemporary folk music. I am forever inspired by Johnny Flynn's writing and ability to tell a story through song!'
And finally a more well known pick - Time (The Revelator) by Gillian Welch. It was Welch's third album, all but one of the tracks being self-penned with Dave Rawlings.
The recordings captured the duo's trademark intimacy and alchemy - and rightly features in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. They have also been an ongoing source of illumination for Christina, who says, 'this album was a gateway into listening to American folk music, fuelling my love of harmony and songwriting. The simplicity of some of these songs is beautiful. A real inspiration.'