Formed for 2009’s Celtic Connections, The Scoville Units are an innovative 6-piece which make maximum use of their substantial collective musical experience. Effortlessly mixing traditions and genres, this debut album is a joy to listen to.
An entirely instrumental arrangement, the band’s opening track ’Scarborough Fair’ takes a new look at the age old tune and makes it seem fresh and new despite it’s age and popularity. The combination of banjo and fiddle, gives this arrangement a bluegrass/country feel, which highlights the band’ shared love of American folk music. But at no point in either this track or the album as a whole does this mix of traditions ever feel forced.
It seems a little perverse for such a bright and lively tune to be named after an executioner, but ’Hangman’s Reel’ is guaranteed to get your foot tapping. Again Leon Hunt’s banjo will try to transport you to the American Midwest, but the combination of cajon and fiddle is entirely Celtic, keeping your feet firmly on British soil.
A slightly satirical look at the number of tunes in the folk tradition named after the composer’s sweetheart, ’(Insert name here’s) Waltz’ is a catchy melody, which brings the mandolin to the forefront, allowing the fiddle and vocals to float over the top like a descant. The second tune of the set ’Ruby Murray’ is dedicated to the staff the band’s favourite Indian restaurant. Picking up the pace considerably, the music replicates the heat of the ’scoville unit laden catering’ the band consume on an ’all too regular’ basis.
One of the few songs on the album, ’Angeline’ is a tale of a marriage that never happened. Lively, upbeat and airy, Gina Griffin brings exactly the right amount of emotion to her vocals, matching the feel of the lively instrumentals in between the verses.
A unit of measuring the heat of a chilli seems an unusual name for a folk band, but if this self-titled debut album is anything to go by, the plural is completely justified.