Blakeley & Son : Nuts & Bolts1 May 2020
For all its moments of delicate virtuosity (and some of them are astounding) there is an earthed and exuberant feel to Nuts & Bolts.
Father Garry Blakeley and his son Edward are a folk-duo from Hastings, each with their own deep-rooted musical pedigree. Following on from a debut five years ago (The Long Way Home) they have released a new album that is an aural delight.
Garry has a long-established reputation as a fiddle player able to spur a room into a high-spirited dance.
A member of Feast of Fiddles alongside luminaries such as Phil Beer and Peter Knight, he has toured Europe with Celtic band, Brian Boru, and supported the likes of Christy Moore and Steeleye Span.
Ed is a composer, musician and producer whose work has ranged from classical forms to folk and modern pop.
A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Ed can play electric bass, drums, guitar, mandolin, banjo, piano, violin and trombone. No slouch in a studio, he also produced Natural Invention, the outstanding recent studio debut by the Gigspanner Big Band.
Father and son were seldom alone for these recordings, as a stellar set of guests lent a hand - including John Spiers (ex Bellowhead), Phillip Henry (Edgelarks), Phil Hudson (The Lighthouse Family), and Roger Flack (Gigspanner). Seven of the ten tracks are detailed by an outside contribution, but at the heart of the album it is Garry's fiddle and vocals that lead, underpinned by Ed's sympathetic instrumental frame.
The energy is immediate - with two of Garry's own tunes sandwiching a third traditional piece; a shock-wave of vibrant sound that travels instantly from your ears to your feet. A perfectly judged version of Dominic Behan's Crooked Jack follows - a cautionary tale of the harm done to a manual worker by disregard, as apt today as when written;
'They say that honest toil is good,
For the spirit and the soul,
But I tell you boys it's for sweat and blood,
That they want you down the hole.'
After that impressive opening the duo take you through sadness, solitude (poignantly expressed by Garry's plaintive low whistle), beautifully rendered songs and barn-stomping instrumental delights before building to a crescendo with the last trio of tunes, Shooting with the Kids / William’s Reel / Spanner in the Works, which open with the high speed finesse of Tom Curd’s Highland bagpipes, before a full band finds more tangents and rip-roaring energy than you’d encounter in the last minutes of end of term GCSE trigonometry class.
Throughout, the production is exquisite. The layered, immersive effect like that Show of Hands achieved with their 22 minute song cycle, Tall Ships. To extend the comparison, Garry's vocals also have the hard-earned character Phil Beer can bring to a song.
Such is the deep joy in this music, I can’t imagine Blakeley and Son playing together without picturing them smiling. Maybe there was a mutual grin too when Nuts & Bolts was finished - there should have been; it is extraordinarily accomplished - traditional music full of the vibrance, excitement and majesty of spring.