Review Archive

‘These Gathered Branches’ The Foxglove Trio ­ “…delightful collection of traditional and contemporary folk songs”

(March 08, 2015)

The debut album from The Foxglove Trio will give them a problem, because one day they’ll have to follow it, and that could be a task and half, because it’s outstanding. ‘These Gathered Branches’ is a These_Gathered_Branches_coverdelightful collection of traditional and contemporary folk songs sung in both English and Welsh, and delivered to perfection. Together, Cathy Mason, Ffion Mair and Patrick Dean display outstanding levels of skill and dexterity with their instruments, and present a wholly enveloping understanding of and feeling for the music they play.

Taking the traditionally acquisitive route of folk artists they’ve gathered material from sessions, published song collections and contemporary artists, overlaid their own arrangements and harmonies. You’ll hear ‘familiar folk’ happily rubbing shoulders with the less well known and you’ll enjoy both, and that’s a promise. Moving through haunting to jubilant, Patrick’s melodeon and concertina make their mark firmly on the trio’s style, as does Ffion’s sparkling vocals and subtle bodhran breaks and the warm caresses of Cathy‘s voice, guitar and cello. They make the English broadside ballad, 'The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield', a lively delight, telling another classic Robin Hood story, and through rich harmonies deliver a fine take on 'Selar Hill' relating the human issues of open cast coal mining above Cwmgwrach in the Vale of Neath, and with 'James Snooks', reputed to be the last highwayman in England to hang, they narrate a classic crime-and-punishment ballad.

'Colli Llanwddyn' telling the anguished tale of Welsh communities flooded to provide water to English cities, is one of the two Welsh language songs on the album, and as with the second, a typical story of love-triumphant, 'Lliw Gwyn Rhosyn yr Haf',  it matters not one jot if you don’t ‘have the language’ simply listening to the lyrical beauty is enough. 'The Three Huntsmen' is one of those essential story-songs that give folk music its primal attraction, this time the inspired arrangement, with a nod to Men of Harlech and other tunes, glorious vocals and lilting melody, make the song take flight, and for sheer splendour there’s the breath-taking three part harmonies of 'Stars and Bells'. Altogether an album of magnetism, skill and vitality.

‘These Gathered Branches’ releases on 20 April 2015. The Foxglove Trio are Cathy Mason (guitar, cello, vocals) Ffion Mair (Welsh and English vocals, whistle, bodhran) and Patrick Dean (melodeon, cello, concertina, vocals) – and you can find them here:

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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