Not another Fleetwood Mac covers outfit, but rather a new partnership of TRADarrr founder members, Marion Fleetwood and Gregg Cave, she violinist/cellist with the Gerry Colvin Band and until recently the Jigantics, while he sporadically fronts folk rock outfit Cave as well as maintaining a solo career.
The core of the debut album, People Like Us, is bolstered with the addition of Tali Trow on double bass and Paul Johnston providing the drums. There’s also a fine array of guests on the Cave-penned title track opener, featuring backing vocals from Colvin, Chris Cleverley, Debs Earl, Edwina Hayes, Simon Nicol, Anna Ryder and Chris Leslie, who also plays violin, as the pair harmonise and share vocals on a number about solidarity in the face of class and economic disparities.
With the exception of one cover, a slow waltzing arrangement of Fairport’s terrific resilience of nature-themed Wizard of the Worldly Game (apparently featuring the definitive last verse lyrics), Fleetwood on lead and the two duetting on the chorus, the material is written by either Marion or Gregg, each taking lead on their own numbers. Taking the former first, the softly strummed Guinea Golden adopts traditional mode for a comment on the transient nature of wealth and possessions, shifting to a slow Morris dance instrumental passages midway and at the end.
Her second contribution, backed by a steady drum beat, yearning fiddle and a simple acoustic guitar melody the slowly swelling Dancing Girls, is another quiet ballad. A stand out track and my personal favourite, finding a glove in the attic sparks heartfelt memories of her childhood best friend who’s now passed (“I saw her once again, there she was, my old friend, she walked towards me with her hands held out high”), a song that will bring a lump to the throat of anyone touched by similar circumstances.
Built around double bass and shimmering cymbals, Lay Me Down Gently is a moodily atmospheric, jazz-tinted paean to passing time and the, if not restorative, then the soothing power of nature, coming in distinct contrast to her preceding rousing fiddle-driven jig Lazarus.
Her final offering is Gypsy Queen, which, opening unaccompanied before pizzicato fiddle kicks in, spins the tale of a Warwickshire siren (inspired by Susanna Lovell of the famous gypsy family on whose grave fellow gypsies would leave pouches of tobacco) that manages to sound traditional while the melody and rhythm conjure a melding of Redbone’s Witch Queen of New Orleans and Al Wilson’s The Snake.
Turning to Cave, he provides the album’s more electric folk rock notes. Please Be Patient and its chiming chorus puts me in mind of Mark Evans’ sterling writing for Red Shoes while, duetting on the chorus and featuring an acoustic guitar middle-eight, mid-tempo closer Passage of Time harks to early Fairport. Despite the title, the verse-sharing Jesus, isn’t about religion, but, veined with shades of The Band, seems rather to do with being drawn to dysfunctional relationships (“little Miss Perfect, she’s got a bruised eye… but tomorrow she’d do it all again”), the duetted last verse offering the line “we can show you Jesus with the smile of a con man, well stand at the bar and dream the best we can.”
Again opening a capella and the pair trading verses, the remaining cut is 18th Day of May, its traditional-styled acoustic melody servicing a political commentary about pushing back against the walls of the economic pressures of today’s hard-scrabble life, forming a link back to the opener, although the title itself was inspired by a line in The Murder of Maria Marten.
They’ve already made strong impressions in both their own solo work and shared bands; this may well prove their biggest yet.