Christina Alden & Alex Patterson : Hunter

Christina Alden and Alex Patterson’s first studio release as a duo arrives in a textured, home crafted sleeve - a simple, understated frame for alchemic contemporary folk.

The pair recorded Hunter at their Norwich home after they lost a year’s worth of gigs to the pandemic. The loss may have been a shock, but the limitless acres of time it afforded have been well ploughed and planted - there is evidence of deep-rooted, refreshed creativity in both the songwriting and the arrangements.

Unrestricted and unbidden, inspiration flowed from unexpected places.

The beauty of Finish photographer Lassi Rautiainen's work stirred the elegant title track into life; its theme is an unusual friendship between a grey wolf and a brown bear.

The song Brooklyn follows the star of Colm Tóibín’s book of the same name, and deftly sketches both the loss and anticipation of migration.

The true story of Indonesian lamplighter Aldi Novel Adilang, who was swept away and lost at sea for 49 days before being rescued, informs the sensitive, despairing narrative of My Boy.

Still, whatever the enforced change in context meant to how they wrote and recorded, Hunter offers continuity, both with Alden and Patterson’s past releases and the traditional music they are steeped in.

As always with the duo’s work, there is genuine warmth. The new songs are soft-woven from their lifetime-honed folk musicianship, profound songwriting talents and an enduring, shared connection to the natural world.

You will find similar qualities expressed in the plaintive harmonies and plangent instrumentation of the traditional piece My Flower, My Companion and Me, around which the rest of the songs here seem to pivot.

Alden and Patterson seem endlessly humble if you are fortunate to meet them, but they can spin real magic. For all its polite, quiet conviviality Hunter is transcendent as its drifting, rhapsodic moods possess your attention - the vivid detail of Alex's fiddle playing and the clarity and restrained emotion of Christina's vocals are always compelling.

The album’s energy is underlined as it sparks pre-pandemic memories - the intimate recordings generate an inescapable sense of being cocooned in a packed folk club watching a set by musicians who have lived to master their craft.

All that is left to do is listen, then repeat.