We Happy Few is the third album release for Somerset duo The Drystones. Ford Collier and Alex Garden’s music has a maturity and depth which belies their youth, albeit, when you learn that they have been performing together since they were fifteen years old, you better understand the intuitive nature of their playing and the perfecting of their rather unique sound. A fine selection of traditional songs and tunes are interspersed with some excellent original tracks in this really enjoyable album.
Spiers and Boden’s Cheshire Waltz is sensitively interpreted with enticing guitar and fiddle harmonies in the first of three tunes in The Cheshire Set. The pace picks up in the Cheshire Round with tabla bringing a rhythm and beat that carries this Playford tune forward and links it seamlessly into the Cheshire Hornpipe, a dashing fiddle and guitar piece, perfectly rounding the set off.
My Son John is a song dating back to Napoleonic times, however Collier and Garden have taken Martin Carthy’s updated arrangement and added electric guitar and tabla to further complement this reflection on modern and historic conflict.
Continuing on this darker theme The Drystones take Man of Words, a medieval nursery rhyme, and transform it with haunting fiddle and dream-like guitar accompaniment into a truly hypnotic, mesmeric song.
Whilst there may be debate as to whether Purcell wrote the tune to Hole in the Wall, The Drystone’s interpretation is delivered with all the passion, precision and care he could have wished for. Their exceptionally tight playing and carefully constructed harmonies bring a freshness and vibrancy to this well-known classic.
Treekend comprises a new strathspey and reel written by Collier and Garden which have an authentic traditional feel and are more than worthy of contemporary adoption.
Low whistle, sliding fiddle, and syncopated guitar and tabla rhythms really brings 3 Months Silence to life. This original tune is almost folk-jazz with an improvised feel to what is a very cleverly conceived and executed piece.
We Happy Few is an album that The Drystones can be proud of. Instrumentally and vocally accomplished, they bring new arrangements and fresh interpretations of traditional songs and tunes whilst demonstrating a gift for bringing forward new and original offerings.
Their creative use of rhythm and harmony ensure a distinctive sound which lends itself so well to traditional and contemporary folk music. If you are looking for traditional music delivered with creativity, passion and skill this is the album for you.Andy McMillan
Self-released on 30 June 2017.
2. Green Mountain
3. My Son John
4. The Cheshire Set
5. 3 Months’ Silence
6. Man of Words
7. On the Dot
8. Katy Cruel
9. Fire and Brimstone
10. Hole in the Wall
11. More Nyah