The first thing that will strike you about this album is its unusual title. The aforementioned wife was married to a man called Urban Law, and her name was seen on a gravestone by a fan. She is immortalised in Peter Knight’s own composition, Lament for the Wife of Urban Law.
This is a beautifully atmospheric piece. There are just occasional thuds from percussion. There is an improvised feel to the fiddle part, which is built over a drone (a device used in several tracks, to great effect). Even though this is a lament, and has a mournful quality, there are dramatic passages too amongst the melancholy.
The second thing of course, is Peter Knight’s stunning fiddle playing. He really has a talent for taking the sound of the violin to new levels. Together with the talents of Roger Flack on guitar and Sacha Trochet on percussion, the trio produce a unique sound, using influences from many musical traditions. Much of the instrumental content has an improvised feel, but never loses focus, being grounded by the guitar and percussion.
The songs included here will be familiar to many, but Knight, along with Flack and Trochet use them as springboard from which to launch complex compositions that take the songs to new musical heights.
In Spencer the Rover the instrumental passages tell the story as much as the words. The fiddle interlude has hints of Eastern European influence while the ending is another beautiful fiddle passage in a completely different style, creating a veritable musical patchwork.
Green Gravel (learned from Fay Hield’s version) is a rather sinister sounding song based on a children’s circle game. Even the fiddle part seems to emphasise this. Again, the track contains extended instrumental passages with a gradual building up of tension leading to an abrupt end.
The album includes several tracks which were recorded live: an Irish hornpipe called The Blackbird, where the tune is taken on a lively musical ramble, and Penny the Hero, a song composed by Peter Knight, in praise of the pub game, Shove Penny. These are as flawless as the studio tracks.
Once again Peter Knight’s Gigspanner has produced an album for which there are not enough superlatives. Another masterpiece.Shelley Rainey
Self released on 31 October 2017.
1. Urban’s Reel
2. Spencer the Rover
3. Green Gravel
4. The Lament for the Wife of Urban Law
5. Peggy and the Soldier
6. Bold Riley
7. The Blackbird (live)
8. Penny the Hero (live)
9. Rocking the Cradle