Saturday, 18 March 2017

Fiddlers elbow their way to the front

Take a bow and join the feast – the Feast Of Fiddles – as the rosin-powered folk supergroup takes to the road with their first new studio album in four years.

Feast Of Fiddles was formed in 1994 as a one-off concert ensemble under the baton of (non-fiddler and leader) Hugh Crabtree, and features some of the best fiddlers from the UK folk scene. 

Fast forward and in 2017 their sixth album entitled Sleight Of Elbow will be released as Feast Of Fiddles embarks on its 24th annual spring tour
Feast Of Fiddles fiddling up a feast

Typically, fiddlers Peter Knight (Gigspanner, Steeleye Span), Chris Leslie (Fairport Convention), Phil Beer (Show Of Hands), Brian McNeill (Battlefield Band), Ian Cutler (Bully Wee Band), Tom Leary (Lindisfarne) and Garry Blakeley (Band of Two) add their extensive range of playing styles to the rock back-line of guitars, keyboards, sax and accordion – all held together by legendary drummer Dave Mattacks

The new album is something of a departure for the band as it features a lot of original compositions from within the band and only a single traditional tune. One well established feature of the band is well exposed, however, and that is Feast Of Fiddles' arrangements of tunes from other genres, film or TV.

The title track is one of two pieces by guitarist Martin Vincent which was first aired during the 2016 spring tour – the tour that Martin missed because he was in hospital getting a new valve for his heart. (FolkCast's own guitar virtuoso, Ken Nicol, filled in for Martin on that tour).

McBrides is a tune from the band Moving Hearts and a real test piece for a big band. The Scottish band The McCalmans provide the first of only three songs on this recording: Smugglers' Song, a rousing tale of – you guessed it – smugglers! 

The band on stage en masse
The band’s arrangement of String of Pearls (best known through the Glen Miller Band) demonstrates the versatility of Feast of Fiddles. Used as tour opener in 2016 it instigated immediate spontaneous applause at more than one venue. 

This is followed by the second song – an original from Alan Whetton, who joined the band on sax and keyboards in 2012. Butterfly’s Wing picks up the concept of chaos theory which suggests the brief flapping of a butterfly’s wing in England might result in a tornado in the mid-west of America. 

Another piece from Martin Vincent – Paper Chase  is probably the nearest the band has got to jazz. Written for a huge school band when Martin was teaching music, the title reflects the frustration of most teachers these days dealing with increasing burden of paperwork. 

The next track, Siamese Kashmir, is a classic example of what Feast of Fiddles is all about. A famous film tune segueing into classic rock. The March Of The Siamese Princes And Princesses from the film The King And I somehow seemed to naturally lead to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir ... or so thought bass player Dave Harding, a frequent provider of left field material choices to open the show. 

Peter Knight, Martin Vincent
and Huge Crabtree
A great band tune from Alan Whetton – Three Legged Race – comes next. Then a past top-of-the-show track which starts with the theme music of TV series Mission Impossible and joins with another tune from the pen of Alan Whetton, Mission Statement; almost inevitably this is entitled Mission Improbable.

The final track on the album is the only traditional tune and one that has been a feature of the band’s repertoire ever since the very beginning. Frequently introduced as a French dance tune that morphs into a drum solo it is Branle Des Chevaux or Horses’ Brawl as it is better known in the UK.

April 2017 English Tour Dates

Feast Of Fiddles website 

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