You find yourself wondering if music historians will look back on the Covid-pandemic era as something of a golden age for music. Sure, the concert side of it has all but collapsed, and has caused hardship for innumerable people, but it appears that many, many musicians have taken the opportunity to create and release new music. Some have taken the solo route, others have taken to technology to work with their collaborators, whilst a few have the luxury of proximity on their side.
Christina Alden and Alex Patterson have previously been noted for being part of the acclaimed Alden Patterson and Dashwood trio, but like many found their plans dashed by the lockdown. Sharing a house in Norwich, though, has enabled Christina and Alex to continue working together and produce this album. Both are multi-instrumentalists and songwriters and it would appear they hit a good headwind with their writing and playing to produce an album of beauty and warmth.
The duo explains; ‘Before the pandemic hit, we had a full year of concerts booked throughout the UK and Europe, and like many other artists we saw those all fall away within a matter of weeks. This came as a big shock and was initially very hard to come to terms with; losing our work and our sense of identity. We wanted to channel our energy into something positive and so decided to record our debut duo album. We used our new-found time and space to be creative; to write, compose and develop new music. This album was made during the lockdowns of 2020/21 at home in The Folk Cellar on King Street, Norwich. Our house is in the middle of the city centre but the normally busy streets were quiet and so we were able to record everything at home. We have really enjoyed creating this album together; working on composition, returning to old instruments that had not been played for a while and revisiting fragments of song ideas written in old note-books’.
On the face of it, this could have become a remarkably twee affair. The album is inspired by the world around them and they delve particularly thoughtfully into the relationships between ourselves and nature. It also considers the relationships within nature itself. In less skilled hands this could have been over-sentimental, but here it is not. The duo knows what they want to say, and do so thoughtfully and entertainingly. Handily, the accompanying album notes explain their ideas behind the songs, encompassing the friendship between a wolf and a bear, migratory movements of Artic foxes and people across land and ocean and the importance of re-wilding and enabling space for nature to renew, and the relationship between humans and the wild.
The ten tracks comprise seven original songs, two instrumentals, and a traditional tune My Flower, My Companion And Me. Both musicians are multi-instrumentalists, with Christina tending to take the lead vocals, although there is are some fine vocal harmonies. One feature is that the album has almost no percussion at all though the duo is joined by Calum McKemmie on double bass on some tracks. This means that there is a lot of space on the tracks, which allows the music to have a fresh airiness about it. Alex actually took on the production duties for the album whilst the album cover is adorned with lino prints created by Christina.
This is a thoughtful, entertaining, intimate and often alluring release. In many ways it is steeped in traditional folk music, rich with story-telling and the choice of instruments is quite at home in that area. But the music manages to transcend that standard convention, being quite contemporary, pertinent and relevant. It is always accessible and fresh sounding. It is hopefully optimistic without being naïve or idealistic.
New Year Waltz
My Flower, My Companion And Me
The Fox Song
The Greenland Shark
Christina Alden: Guitar / Vocals / Banjo
Alex Patterson: Fiddle / Vocals / Viola / Cello / Tenor Guitar / Shruti box
Calum McKemmie: Double Bass
Release Date: 7th May 2021