Album Review | Field Notes Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5
This is a live album, but not in the sense of a performance in front of an audience, but in the sense of several living, breathing ‘plein air’ performances in the South Somerset area around the A303 trunk road. There’s birds singing in the background and the close up sound of movement along the A303 itself, along with the gentle sound of the elements and when those elements become less gentle, the rattling of cutlery and chit-chat in the local tea rooms, none of which distracts from the twelve plaintive musical compositions that make up this gorgeous album.
The album begins with the sound of a squeaky country gate opening three times, presumably to signify the arrival of the three musicians, before taking up their positions in a South Somerset field. The twelve instrumental compositions are delivered by this trio of empathetic Bristol-based musicians, Alex Vann, Pete Judge and Paul Bradley, who have an array of over fifteen instruments at their disposal, from acoustic guitar and mandolin through to the more exotic bowed psaltery, lyre and miniature harp. Rob Harbron returns to make sure all this is recorded, mixed and presented in the fashion in which it was intended, after serving the trio well on their second album, Holts & Hovers in 2012. It’s a little Penguin Cafe, a little Amazing Blondel and a good deal of Three Cane Whale originality rolled into one. I would suggest that in the castles, churches and tea rooms of South Somerset, 303 should be placed alongside the cream teas, postcards and trinkets, as a true souvenir of this part of the world.