Beneath The Black Tree is an album of music that is as stark and beautiful as the imposing silhouetted tree and brooding, cloud-laden sky that graces the album artwork. Wyke and Driscoll's combination of fiddle and viola bring an alluring depth to this collection of primarily traditional material, with the full-bodied resonance of the viola adding a particular elegance and intensity. Andy Seward's double bass further heightens the potency, whilst varied and inventive percussion from Keith Angel provides an occasional contemporary leaning.
Wyke's bold and commanding voice brings an effortless potency to "Benjamin Bowmaneer," delivered with an authoritative military precision, whilst he sings with more sinister overtones on "The Robber." A mournful glockenspiel brings an eerie atmosphere to "The King Of Poland," played in a particularly redolent manner, before the piece builds to a majestic climax with the rousing warmth of Ellen Driscoll's French horn. There is a typically English feel to "Coronation Day" that perfectly evokes both reverence and regal celebration. Wyke and Driscoll's own compositions nestle comfortably amongst the traditional pieces, with a poise and spirit that is very much the equal of their predecessors.
Beneath The Black Tree succeeds by presenting traditional music through confident and considerate arrangements that avoid ramshackle pastiche, by opting for a refined performance that owes as much to chamber music as it might to folk music. The recording is beautifully open, allowing you to savour each subtle cadence and appreciate the uncluttered interplay between the instruments.
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