Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5
If Peter Knight’s post-Steeleye outfit Gigspanner was always going to be a perfectly formed trio and Edgelarks, comprising Hannah Martin and Phillip Henry, were always going to be a perfectly formed duo, then despite some hesitation about whether or not perfectly formed things need any further embellishment, Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band reveals, unsurprisingly really, a perfect union. This is the Big Band’s debut studio album, having tentatively dipped their collective toes in the water with a live album released back in 2017. For Natural Invention, a name derived from David Kidman’s review of that live album for FATEA magazine, the perfectly formed John Spiers joins the line-up for that additional spark – as if they really needed it.
As is the usual case with Gigspanner, in all its various incarnations, the musical arrangements are superb throughout, a lesson in dexterity and drive, delivered with passion and flair and a clear understanding of traditional material and its value. “The Snows They Melt the Soonest” and “Long a Growing”, also known as “The Trees They Do Grow High”, are once again brought to life in a clear and refreshing manner, as are “Earl Brand”, “Searching For Lambs” and “Courting is a Pleasure”, beautifully sung by Hannah. Midway through, Peter leads the band in a thoroughly uplifting reading of “The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night”, under the title “Daddy Fox”, with Phillip’s Sonny Terry harmonica hooping away, giving us a real and exhilarating sense of the Fox’s eager exploits. John Spiers brings a sense of the sea to proceedings with a dazzling reworking of the shanty “Haul on the Bowline”, whilst both Roger Flack and Sacha Trochet lift everything with their informed artistry. Even after a generous 63 minutes, we are left wanting more. Masterful, as expected.
Choice Track: Courting is a Pleasure (NSV 500)