The Foxglove Trio – Distant Havens
Self-Released – 9 October 2017
The anglo-welsh band The Foxglove Trio features Ffion Mair on lead vocals, whistle and bodhran, Cathy Mason on guitar and Patrick Dean on melodeon, the latter two also both contributing cello. Distant Havens is their second album, this time combining self-penned material along with the traditional and contemporary numbers. They even bookend it with an a capella arrangement of Home by The Foo Fighters, the title embodying the theme that runs throughout, not geographically, as on the first album, but as a concept. The album properly gets underway with the first of the original numbers, Dean’s melodeon to the fore on the Eastern-European flavours of the swaying Looking Elsewhere with its lines about “a little girl lost and far from her home” as she wanders the city streets while the locals turn their eyes.
The first of five numbers sung in Welsh, the cello-led Ym Mhontypridd concerns fears of unrequited love and marries a new verse by Mair to traditional lyrics and melody. Similar doubts concern the characters in the equally traditional Os Daw fy Nghariad and the slow fingerpicked lilt of Dau Aderyn, though, since there’s no English translation, I can’t say how or why.
The other two Welsh language tracks are the crooning unaccompanied lullaby Si Hei Lwli and, backed by cello, the tragic mournful William, discovered in the St. Fagans archives and, as far as the trio are aware, never commercially recorded before.
Of the ‘covers’, Now Is The Cool of the Day is an acapella arrangement of the Jean Ritchie song, while, featuring melodeon and Mason’s acoustic guitar with the trio joined by the vocal forces of the Andover Museum Loft Singers on the anthemic chorus, These Are My Mountains is the setting of lyrics by Scottish poet James Copeland. Another poem provides the source of the musically rousing Dusk The Day, although the actual title is A Death Song and was written by textile designer, poet and socialist activist William Morris for the 1887 funeral of Alfred Linnell, one of three killed during a peaceful demonstration in Trafalgar Square (Bloody Sunday, 1887) against coercion in Ireland and unemployment.
Of the remaining tracks, the jaunty The Sheffield Apprentice, which features Dylan Fowler on percussion (who also produced the album), is a setting by Dean to traditional lyrics about leaving home in seek of work, while The January Girl and Branwen are both credited to Mair. The former, a double-cello moment, with pizzicato cello initially accompanying the vocals, is a reworking of Dave Goulder’s The January Man and set to his tango-like melody, while, built around melodeon and cello, the latter, its tragic triangle tale of the Welsh goddess drawn from the Mabinogian, incorporates the tune Synapse by Pete Cooper.
Highly accomplished and musically complex for such limited instrumentation, this could deservedly well find itself among next year’s BBC Radio 2’s Folk Awards nominations.
Order Distant Havens via Bandcamp: https://thefoxglovetrio.bandcamp.com/album/distant-havens
For their current tour dates head here: http://www.thefoxglovetrio.co.uk/gigs.html