Violinist Tom Moore, melodeon player Archie Churchill-Moss and guitarist Jack Rutter have been playing music together since 2009. In 2011 they won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, a success cemented by a rather impressive debut album and four years of hard-graft touring and honing their repertoire and sound through an extensive encompassing of musical traditions from their home counties of Norfolk, Somerset and Yorkshire respectively. And much else besides, by the way, delivered with an all-round sophistication that belies their very youth.
Already each member of the trio has a healthy pedigree of working (or depping) in various other musical units, and this seems to inform rather than hinder their dedicated Moore Moss Rutter trio excursions, for theirs is an enviable and wholly natural togetherness that’s born of a genuine and fearlessly confident musicianship. The impact of their music-making is invariably exciting for the listener, but less in the purely jaw-dropping way than as a sensitive, intelligent and unerringly directed expression of assured interpretive intent. And the guys could not have wished for a better demonstration of these qualities than has been enabled for them by this absolutely exceptional recording, courtesy of Sheffield’s Andy Bell, which (while I suspect is also much due to a striking empathy with the musicians themselves and what they’re trying to achieve) sports a clarity and presence that puts many other modern studio productions to shame. Any one of the disc’s ten tracks could be cited as giving examples of the trio’s intuitive correspondence, which is couched in an unassumingly sumptuous, lovingly detailed richness of sound.
The three musicians show an unfaltering sense of artistic unity, whether, say, fiddle and box are playing the melody line in strict unison or indulging in delighted, implacable flights of counterpoint with the guitar (or other very occasional bursts of additional stringed activity like the banjo on Wait For The Waggon or a smidgen of dobro on the infectious, lively pair of tunes composed by Archie himself (Six Weeks/Thursday Early). Whether the tunes are traditional or time-worn in actual origin, their execution and arrangement has a thoroughly contemporary air and a spirit of natural adventure that sidesteps the radical-for-its-own-sake and gives the attentive listener plenty of accessible reward opportunities. This applies equally to some inventive adaptations of Playford tunes (Jenny Pluck Pears, Woolly And Georgey and Portsmouth) and a straighter-conceived yet sublimely contoured take on a hornpipe by Purcell, then perhaps especially on the supremely lyrical syncopations of the Valse Sainte-Louise/Tomcat set which pairs a lovely Quebecois waltz learnt from John Dipper with an intensely driven Robert Harbron composition that was first aired by the English Acoustic Collective.
More as an observation and made more apparent by their exemplary instrumental work is that their vocals shine more on some songs than others. Jack’s rugged timbre sounds more at home on the rarely-heard transatlantic-crossing Wait For The Waggon than the more emotional tale of The Reedcutter’s Daughter, while Archie doesn’t quite attain the measure of John Tams’ evocative War Horse number The Year Turns Round Again. The more immediate impression left by this album however is the combination of immediacy and inventive counterpoint within textures and dynamics – this never fails.
Review by: David Kidman
II is out now via Rootbeat Records
Order it via Amazon