Borderlands, Haddo’s second album, starts with huge promise. Husband and wife duo Will and Nicky Pound, play the first piece Ampleforth with passion, skill and bravado. Each brings innovation to their interpretation of the tune, and their playing melds together into a seamless and compelling whole. Ampleforth is a longsword dance piece and the two play with vigour and precision. Such a great start raises high hopes for the rest of the album.
Perhaps best known for his tour de force playing of the harmonica, Will plays the melodeon on Borderlands, at times bringing a similar wizardry to the instrument. Nicky plays fiddle and viola, and also sings.
Borderlands is aptly named since the duo’s repertoire stretches up into Scotland where Nicky hails from, and across England including many Morris tunes for which Haddo is perhaps best known.
The duo’s second album also features lively jigs such as Two Williams and self-penned pieces. Midama was written by Nicky to celebrate the purchase of their narrowboat. The Earl of Newman is a medieval-sounding tune that the pair also wrote.
For the first time on a Haddo album, Nicky sings. Two Sisters is a Child ballad with the familiar gruesome elements of a folk song delivered in a jaunty style. If you didn’t listen to the lyrics, you might think it was a jolly tune. Both Two Sisters and Will ye no Come Back Again, a Jacobite song of yearning for Bonnie Prince Charlie, are delivered with upbeat confidence and clarity. Nicky’s voice is light and pleasant, though at times it may lack emotional variation and depth.
Contemporary Scotland comes back into the picture with Farley Bridge, a haunting piece by fiddler Duncan Chisholm which evokes the Scottish landscape. This is a surprising piece in the mix, and Haddo surprise even more when they give ’the Glenn Miller treatment’ to one of their favourite Morris tunes from the Headington tradition, Old Tom of Oxford.
Halsway Carol is a tune by hurdy gurdy player Nigel Eaton, which captures the sound and rhythm of the instrument.
England and Scotland come together as the album reaches its close, with Cotswold Morris tune Orange in Bloom followed by Scottish fiddle player John McCusker’s Frank’s Reel, popular on both sides of the border.
The album ends with Spootiskerry, a piece by Shetland fiddler Ian Burns, giving an unexpected brief glimpse of Will’s stunning harmonica playing.
Borderlands brings together an unpredictable mix of compositions and styles. Haddo put their best foot forward here, and it will be interesting to see where they go next. No other piece quite lives up to the standard of Ampleforth. Its promise remains open as a tantalising opportunity for the future of this duo.Karin Horowitz
Released on Lulubug Records, May 19th 2014.
2. Two Williams
4. Two Sisters
5. Old Tom of Oxford
6. Earl of Newman
7. Farley Bridge
8. Will Ye No Come Back Again
9. Halsway Carol
10. Orange in Bloom
11. Frank’s Reel