Time and Again
Camus (pronounced “Car-muss”, after
the Galway village, not the goalkeeping existentialist) have a long pedigree around Cambridge. They’ve existed in various forms, including as the Great Eastern Ceilidh Band, for many years, and recently reformed as a trio.
This six-track EP centres on that trio – Greg Smith (fiddle, viola), David Somerville (keyboard, whistle, bass, Northumbrian small pipes) and Andrew Burn (melodeon, Northumbrian small pipes, vocals, guitar) – but they have since re-recruited Brian Cleary (guitar, bouzouki), who also turns up here.
The instrumental range reflects a highly accomplished group of musicians. They manage a wider range of colour and texture than you might expect from a trio, further augmented by hammered dulcimer and mandolin from Hazel Smith and Mike Nelson of the ceilidh band. This isn’t just about instrumental diversity. The songs and tunes here have lovely, dynamic arrangements. This is poised and sophisticated stuff.
The EP features three songs and three tune sets. It opens with a beguiling
Shetland set, gradually building up the accompaniment to a seductive Da Day Dawn before bouncing into Christmas Day I’da Morning and romping home with Da Alamoutie. Here, as in the less familiar Galician Set, you can definitely hear musicians who’ve played for dancers. The EP closes with a couple of Andrew Burn’s tunes. The giddying Three Day Week was written to use up the accidentals on his melodeon, while Alan Burn’s Memorial Jig is a joyous tribute to his dad.
The Deserter From Kent is given an appropriately brisk reading, while the Northumbrian Felton Lonnin sits nicely on a spacious backdrop of whistle and pipes.
The standout track, though, is Burn’s setting of Pauline Barrington’s first world war poem Education. The accompaniment rests chiefly on guitar, bass and fiddle, but its harmonised and expansive vocal arrangement just adds to the words’ resonant power. Evoking Lester Simpson’s writing – very much not a criticism – this has kept me coming back. Impressive.
Paul Cowdell, Folk London magazine, December-January 2021-22.