Peter Knight & John Spiers Both In A Tune
Review by Chris Nickson
"Scarborough Fair" (excerpt)
The second album (following 2018’s Well Met) from this venerable duo shows that the art of deep listening is very much alive and well in music. Knight has long credentials in folk music; for many years he was the fiddle player in Steeleye Span, helping to shape early British folk-rock, and now leads Gigspanner. John Spiers came of age as half of Spiers and Boden, then Bellowhead, and is now involved in several things - including Gigspanner. They both have formidable histories.
This, though, is different. Yes, it’s a folk album of sorts, but one which explores and reimagines traditional tunes, making them into something quite new and often daring. There’s also a strong sprinkling of original music, filled with delicate and sometimes breathless improvisation. Nobody’s sitting on their laurels here.
To understand listen to the opening cut, a take of “Scarborough Fair” that’s unlike any other. It takes a while for the ear to tease out the tune as the instruments play and dart around each other. The music is exquisitely paced, breathing as it gently unfolds and delights. The musicians pay attention, they complement each other in their playing. It might not be folk playing in any way the term is generally understood, but it’s wonderful.
"La Danse De Madame Meymerie" (excerpt)
But that’s true throughout. The love of a good tune is the common ground on all 10 tracks, although the approach is anything but straightforward, and all the better for it. The duo’s own compositions nestle tidily among the older material, so the wonder of “Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance,” where Spiers’s melodeon leads through the thicket of a tune for deer dancers and a hobby horse, before taking a left turn into the glorious insistence of “La Danse De Madame Meymerie,” which the pair peel and fly off each other with quicksilver wit.
"Battle Of The Somme" (excerpt)
To finish with the sombre and sober “Battle Of The Somme” risks ending things on a down note, but instead it’s an arresting, thoughtful conclusion that leaves the music resonating through the mind. Beautifully performed and thought out, they really are both in a tune, every tune. -Chris Nickson