Melrose Quartet are the combined forces of two well known and respected duos who will be no strangers to those that have followed the British Folk scene for the past ten years. Nancy Kerr (fiddle, voice) & James Fagan (voice, bouzouki) and Jess & Richard Arrowsmith (fiddle, melodeon and voices) were all friends before deciding to form the quartet. Jess and Richard were members of the Sheffield based band Crucible alongside Gavin Davenport and Helena Reynolds who cited Cordelia’s Dad as an influence on projecting their strong vocal performances. They released their debut Changeling in 2003 on Wildgoose Records. In the same year Nancy Kerr and James Fagan picked up Best Duo at the BBC Folk Awards. As well as being fine instrumentalists they are very highly regarded influential singers on the traditional folk scene.
With the Fagan household living on a narrow boat in Bath and the Arrowsmiths in Sheffield it was fate that eventually played its hand in bringing them closer together…three doors apart in fact! Both Jess and Nancy were expectng babies in 2009 and a decision to move to a less cramped household led to some house hunting in Sheffield which has a great folk scene and has even been described as the capital of UK folk music…Richard and Jess just happened to notice that the house three doors down from theirs on Melrose Road was on the market and the rest, as they say, is history…
The quartet made the most of 2012 touring extensively to showcase their collective talents which also led to them being voted Audience’s Number 1 in 2012 Towersey Festival’s Top 10 Artists as well as releasing an EP “Live at Cheltenham”. Well now the wait is over with their debut album Fifty Verses due for release on August 19th.
Engineered by Andy Bell much of ‘Fifty Verses’ is not surprisingly influenced by Sheffield as beautifully depicted on the album cover and it’s strong musical identity that attracts many performers. The album combines accompanied and a Capella song…both new and traditional but promises a fresh take on many:
The title track, composed by Nancy Kerr, is set in an urban garden and uses language from traditional songs to explore aging, memory and the relationship between city and countryside. Opening song ‘Santa Georgia’ another Kerr original – binds together rural and industrial imagery to celebrate the bittersweetness of putting down roots in a modern British city, with a rousing folk chorus inspired by the band’s immersion in community song.
Jess Arrowsmith is a writer of rare quality and her seasonal love song ‘Wedding Bells’ uses the distinctive qualities of each singer to resonant and romantic effect. You can hear each voice at equal strength in the earthy canon ‘When You Were Born’, while the intertwining of the two female voices is a particular feature of songs like the traditional borderline-bawdy ‘Wanton Wife of Castlegate’. Jess’s own powerful vocals lead the a capella finale ? favourite spiritual ‘Bright Morning Star’.
The quartet’s fresh take on classic-sounding unaccompanied singing is heard again on Paul Wilson’s rousing ‘Bampton Fair’ the story of modernity colliding with tradition at an ancient gypsy horse fair; ‘The Twelve Apostles’ ? a Newfoundland version of Green Grow the Rushes; and Gloucestershire’s ‘Shepherd’s Song’, led by Richard Arrowsmith’s mellow baritone. James Fagan revisits George Dunn and Peter Bellamy’s shaping of the powerhouse ‘The Death’.
Fifty Verses is released on MQCD August 19th
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