The Space Between is the second album by the Bonfire Radicals, a band that describe themselves as ’(un)traditional’. This album is a hallmark of their eclectic style with influences from folk, klezmer, jazz and all things lively. Their unique mix of instruments (recorder, clarinet, viola, guitar, bass and drums) creates a distinctive sound - but more importantly the band harness this to their advantage.
Beginning with Brenda Stubbert’s Reel, a tune by Jerry Holland, we immediately hear the fast tunes and driving rhythms that characterise the whole album. This directly leads into The Bonfire, which highlights the prowess of Michelle Holloway on the recorder and Katie Stevens on the clarinet.
While the guitar from Emma Reading at the start of Cafe De Flore is more relaxed, the groove never ceases. The parts of this track with just guitar, bass (Pete Churchill) and drums (Ilias Lintzos) are sublime.
Satsuma Moon is an original tune by the band, evident from the adventurous rhythm in a changing time signature, though it remains tight and compelling throughout. Mary Ashford is a haunting version of a Birmingham murder ballad, and on this album the songs are just as good as the tunes.
Accordion and percussion lead the Balkan inspired Man from Suburbia, but not without some rock guitar towards the end, giving this track a different feel though one that says Bonfire Radicals all over. Sarah Farmer’s viola grounds the tune in a low octave while Holloway’s recorder soars high above.
Sha, Sha, Di Shviger Kumt is a traditional Klezmer tune, as is Freilacher Nashele which follows it. The album ends with Coffee Countdown, a Bulgarian-inspired tune from their first album but now played on the pipe organ. It is short but sweet.
The Bonfire Radicals are a band like no other. Every track on The Space Between brings something different. It may not be full of the old favourites played in a traditional style, but this album is worthy of being in every folk record collection.Elye Cuthbertson
Released on 30 September 2022 on CD and digitally. Recorded by Luke Morrish-Thomas, mixed by James Brough, mastered by Andie Thomson.
1. Brenda Stubbert’s Reel
2. The Bonfire
3. Cafe de Flore
4. Satsuma Moon
5. Mary Ashford
6. The Man From Suburbia
7. Sha, Sha, Di Shviger Kumt
8. Freilacher Nashele
9. Coffee Countdown