sun 14/04/2024

Album: Leveret - Forms | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Leveret - Forms

Album: Leveret - Forms

The leading English folk trio’s 10th anniversary celebration

Follow the hare: chasing the tune tradition with Leveret

Ten years ago, three leading young English folk musicians got together in a room and swapped some tunes – Rob Harbron, whose English concertina graced the likes of The Remnant Kings and Emily Portman’s albums; melodeon player Andy Cutting, a three-times winner of Radio 2’s Folk Musician of the Year; and former Bellowhead alumni and fellow Musician of the Year, fiddler Sam Sweeney.

Together, they chose the name Leveret, a term for a young hare, and went on to record a set of ancient English tunes, including an epic, drone-tastic take of “The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance”, and went on to revive an English tune tradition that had been heavily obscured by its Celtic neighbours.

Since releasing New Anything in 2015, Leveret have continued to mine their song sources, from the likes of Playford’s Dancing Master, a classic tune anthology that went through 18 editions between 1651 and 1728, as well as including their own compositions in subsequent albums In the Round, Inventions, Diversions, Variations Live, and now, for their tenth birthday, Forms.

The title takes its name from the term for a hare’s nest, and there is a sense of the trio returning to the nest of repertoires that first inspired them. From the off, with the propulsive “Bass Hornpipe”, from a 1770 manuscript left to posterity by the Rev Thomas Cowper, these three master musicians of the English tradition meld, construct and flow to stunning effect, the energetic push-and-pull in the sound building an improvisatory group dynamic, extending the source into decidedly contemporary music-making.

Harbron’s “Filberts” is wistful and ethereal – its name comes from the hazel used for Morris dancing sticks. It’s followed by a Morris tune, “Blacksmith’s Morris”, from the Extraordinary Collection of 1713. Extraordinary then, still working its magic now – the tune equivalent of news that stays news.

Others, such as “Queen’s March” and “Scarlet and Green” are drawn from the pages of poet John Clare, while “Princess Amelia’s Birthday”, a shifting musical pattern of three intricate interlocking parts, is named after George III’s 15th and youngest daughter, apparently something of a tearaway. To close, the trio return to Playford for “Mr Lane’s Minuet”, an airy, lilting beauty of a tune led off by Sweeney’s violin, the concertina and melodeon passing through like banks of sunlit cumulus. Throughout, there’s a shimmering weightlessness in the trio’s playing, a finely balanced conjuring of sympathetic parts.

Leveret collectively – and as solo artists in their own right – have done much to bring English back into the light and let them shine, and as they conclude their 10th anniversary UK tour – they’re at Stamford Arts Centre tonight, and at Kings Place in London on 22 April – drawing the juice out of long-forgotten tunes laid down long ago in books and private papers that have survived the obscurity of centuries and still ring clear and true.

@CummingTim

These master musicians of the English tradition meld, construct and flow to stunning effect

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