‘Alchemy’ from The Emily Askew Band - a consummate work by accomplished musicians

(September 06, 2017)

Before writing a single word I will confess to an enduring passion for medieval and renaissance music, so bias declared. However, the fusion of medieval and renaissance melodies and songs with modern folk styles that pours through ‘Alchemy’ from The Emily Alchemy Emily Askew bandAskew Band is nothing short of gorgeous. And alchemy is precisely the right word to use ... not for the transmutation of ‘base metals’ into ‘noble metals’, more akin to the creation of a panacea to cure disease. Listen to this music and there’s little doubt that you will feel better and who knows your soul may soar ... mine certainly did.

This is more than mixing unusual instruments and experimenting with ancient sounds and modern treatments, ‘Alchemy’ is a consummate piece of work created by accomplished musicians. The span of music flows from 13th to 17th century taking in Guillaume d’Amiens, Guillaume de Machaut and Claude Gervaise, several anonymous works and an Emily Askew original. Opening with some classic French dance tunes ‘Bransles’, they include a secular Middle English song ‘Miri it is’ perfectly joined to the spritely ‘Allez a la Fougère’, before introducing a delightful rendering of ‘Cantiga de Santa Maria 42’ coupled to another dance ‘Bourée’. A stately version of ‘Play of Daniel’ morphed into a fiddle duet leads into the delicate ‘Guiseppe’ by Emily, from there the idiosyncratic ‘Douce Dame Jolie’ takes hold as does the wistful ‘Winter’ coupled to the buoyant ‘Tourdion’.

‘Alchemy’ brings to life music that might otherwise remain largely forgotten, reveals the depths that lie beneath the surface and truly does provide ‘balm for the soul’.

The Emily Askew Band are Emily Askew (vocals, recorders, fiddle, Vielle, bagpipes, shawn, bells, frame drum, harp) Jamie Roberts (vocal, guitar) John Dipper (fiddle, viola d'amorem frame drum, riq) and Louise Duggan (frame drum, riq, bendir) with Simon Whittaker (vocals, frame drum, riq, bendir, cajon, udo) James Patterson (vocals).


Review: Tim Carroll

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