Bright Season are a talented and instrumentally diverse trio comprising Michael J Tinker (vocals, guitar), Ella Sprung (vocals, fiddle and nyckelharpa) and Simon Dumpleton (vocals, accordion, piano). Their aim on this album was to showcase the variety of material they perform, and they have certainly achieved that.
In fact, the choice of material couldn’t be more diverse - from the stark simplicity of the Sacred Harp hymn Africa, to Strange Fruit, a song from the 1930s, covering the uncomfortable subject of the lynching of African Americans, and famously sung by Billie Holliday.
There are lighter moments too - My Mother Taught Me How to Waltz is charming, with the instrumental passages on accordion giving the song a fairground feel.
As the group all sing as well as play, Bright Season are able to achieve a wide variety of sounds. This results in some lovely harmony singing on Shendandoah for example.
Michael J Tinker is a gifted composer, and his excellent tune Arrival was written to mark the birth of his third child. Two of the traditional songs on the album, Wild Colonial Boy, and Bonny Boy (a variant of The Trees They Do Grow High) are also set to his tunes.
The album ends with Yeoman’s Son, a WWI poem by Cicely Fox Smith, written in the tradition of the night visiting song. The simple piano accompaniment and the close harmony vocals are beautifully done, with the haunting sound of the nyckelharpa solo adding to the poignancy.
An exciting debut for a talented trio.Shelley Rainey
Released by Folkstock Records, Easter 2014
2. The Wild Colonial Boy
3. My Mother Taught Me How to Waltz
4. Strange Fruit
7. Bonny Boy
9. The Yeoman’s Son