Alden, Patterson & Dashwood : By The Night25.06.2018
Martin Simpson once said "Folk music is music that accompanies a raffle" - a quick, funny definition that misses out the tradition and the social politics but that in connotation captures the conviviality of the form; it is as much about relationships and their expression as anything else. And raffles.
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. This, their second, album was recorded in late 2017 and early 2018 at a house in St Cross, South Elmham with Alex producing. It follows their debut in 2016, Call Me Home, that drew a flitting, concise plaudit from Mark Radcliffe - "It's lovely stuff". Call Me Home was also rightly 'Album Of The Year - Editors Choice' in fROOTS Magazine 2016.
Listening to By The Night there is not the shock of new sound that came with Call Me Home - the tone and textures are this time familiar, but the standard is the same.
The first two tracks are self-written and inspired by books; The Time Song by 'The Time Traveler's Wife', By the Night by Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus'.
The Time Song is a beautiful, understated piece as an opener - an uplifting, pastoral lullaby of love. By The Night was written after a trip to India - it quickens the pace with rippling guitar underpinning the dobro and fiddle, and most importantly the harmonies. As already said, definitively lovely stuff.
A pair of American folk songs follow - Bonnie Blue Eyes and Red Rocking Chair - the later mostly a cappella and affecting, the former feeling as if it is being sung on a mid-West porch in the 1940s.
Once the mood is set by those four pieces, the rest drift and flow by like clouds on a summer's day - with each worth your absorbed attention.
To over extend the metaphor, the first wisp of altocumulus into sight, The Cobbler's Daughter, is another self written song - about a couple who were lost in the Swiss Alps in 1942, only for their bodies to be found in 2017 as a glacier retreated. Poignantly their 79 year old daughter had never given up her search, and the lyrics render the loss poetic, 'Can you hear the mountain sing? 'Come away with me' '.
Then Blow The Wind is a familiar, rolling Tyneside air with a new second verse, whilst Railroad is an American folk song with an insistent rhythm, offering a suggestion of steam driven wheels clattering on rails. Kingfish follows, inspired by watching a David Attenborough programme, it is rich in natural imagery - its show of lyrical dexterity contrasting with the ensuing piece, the bright instrumental The Nerves, written by Noel to combat on-stage anxiety.
By The Night comes to an end with Ten Thousand Miles, a traditional song made famous by Nic Jones' plaintive, elegiac version on Noah's Ark Trap. Here, re-arranged, it is defiantly hopeful and has a real swing to it, but is splendidly affective.
The album comes in a folding cardboard sleeve, designed by Christina Alden, whilst the CD itself has a print of the album's front cover image on it. As you would for a limited edition print, the sleeves are hand numbered out of 500. The whole thing feels intimate and lovingly crafted - for the second time in recently reviewed albums everything about this CD quietly defines its utter humanity; whatever words you use to describe the genre, this is what folk is for. Alden, Patterson & Dashwood have made more radiant and delightful music.