If you’re old enough, your views on harmonicas may have been tainted by 60’s era TV variety shows and, on accordions, by the White Heather Club. In marked contrast, if, like me, you’ve been feeling a distinct lack of harmonica excitement in your life since the demise of The Will Pound Band then you’ll immediately sit up and cheer, knowing that Will is back with a bang. He’s teamed up with accordion player extraordinaire, Eddy Jay whose previous credits range from the Newfolks duo, with Jamie Smith’s Mabon’s current fiddle player Oliver Wilson-Dickson, to writing and performing a version of Peter and the Wolf for accordion, fiddle, bassoon and storyteller. Who needs an orchestra when you have an accordion? In fact, the phrase most often used to describe Eddy’s playing is that “he can make his instrument sound more like an orchestra” and the 11 tunes on Ignite illustrate this in spades.
Duets for harmonica and accordion may not be the most obvious of arrangements but, in the hands of these masters of their instruments, the music is initially intriguing and ultimately just out and out fun to listen to. Concerned by an apparent lack of a rhythm section? Don’t be, with these two, either instrument can provide that structure and it’s a characteristic of the album that the tempos are rarely less than brisk and frequently closer to frenetic. Ignite is well named, the blue touch paper is lit right from the first track.
Unsurprisingly, all the arrangements are credited to Jay and Pound but the tunes themselves have a variety of sources, 3 are traditional, 3 their own compositions, the remainder from composers encompassing a variety of nationalities and styles. The album kicks off at breakneck pace with a reel from Irish tenor banjo wizard Kieran Hanrahan, Floating Candle, with the accordion setting the tempo and Will’s harmonica adding the fireworks. The melodic lines are slightly more evenly shared on Barbarini’s Tambourine, though it’s still Will’s harmonica to the fore, a pattern that’s fairly consistent through the album. Listen beyond the harmonica, though, and you quickly appreciate how much variation of texture and rhythm the accordion is adding.
Barbarini’s Tambourine gives a pointer to just how widely the duo cast their nets when assembling the material, this one appeared in Walsh’s 1745 The Compleat Country Dancing-Master. Geographically there’s a Swedish polka, composed by fiddler Viksta-Lasse, a traditional Balkan dance tune, Rachenitsa, and the bluegrass favourite, Clinch Mountain Backstep, as well as the English, Irish and Scottish material.
The mix of harmonica and accordion adds intriguing new twists to familiar material whilst the duo’s own compositions tend to highlight their playful nature, a short swing piece written whilst they were in Leicester and inspired by the finding of Richard III’s remains under a local car park. Or Hangman, a combination of tune and missing chord puzzle. Whether it’s the traditional tunes or their own compositions, what shines through from this album is the sheer enjoyment that Will and Eddy clearly had when devising and performing the pieces. The result is an album that will lift spirits and give you a smile, even on the dullest of days, and leave you marvelling at the virtuosity of two astoundingly talented musicians.
Review by: Johnny Whalley
14 Apr – The Convent, STROUD
15 Apr – The Treehouse, KENILWORTH
18 Apr – The Green Note, LONDON
23-25 Apr – Costa Del Folk, SPAIN
30 Apr – Big Session Festival, BUXTON
07 May – Tredegar House Festival, NEWPORT
11 Jun – KENILWORTH Festival,
15 Jul – PETWORTH Festival
05 Aug – DRANOUTER Festival
08 Aug – BROADSTAIRS Folk Week
13 Aug – Campfire Convention, HEREFORDSHIRE