The Oxford, UK based musical collective Floyds Row consists of Alistair Anderson on concertina and pipes, Andrew Arceci on viola da gamba and double bass, baritone vocalist Joshua Copeland, Chris Ferebee on mandolin, guitar and cittern, sopranist and accordionist Hannah James, Becky Jane Rea on flute and James Percival on harmonium. Each musician is classically trained and has separately and collectively played shows both in the United Kingdom and here in the states to wide acclaim. The bands take on fusing several different musical styles such as classical, folk, roots revival, Americana, and bluegrass and newgrass that makes them rather unique which one discovers as they listen to the band’s debut record The Oxford Sessions.
The Oxford Sessions opens with the beautifully haunting instrumental “Drive the Cold Winter Away (from John Playford's English Dancing Master)” which helps to set the mood for the kind of record this is going to be. One immediately hears the creak of the concertina and knows that this will be a kind of journey back to a different time. A harsher time where music served as something to warm the soul which was often in need back then and dare I say still is today.
On the next song “Local Quarrels” we are introduced to the sweet and direct vocals of Hannah James. The story unfolds sung as a folkish ballad over a finger picked guitar melody that wrings out with a sort of ghostly air about. Soon the strings come in sounding wooden and dead, droning like a ship in a storm. It’s very powerful. Next on “Luckie Street” we get the band’s take on a familiar sound; the Irish folk ballad with a bit of English royal court flare thrown in. This style of fanciful happiness continues on “Howells Delight.”
The band doesn’t stay in this happy go lucky mode for too long as they switch to a much darker mood on the haunting and incredibly powerful “Caedom’s Hymn” which really shows off the band’s diversity for medieval musical styles. After a few very classically direct offerings Floyds Row goes back to the bawdy pub songs making their dynamics shift with such ease that one cannot help but be awed by how such genres work so well together and how the same instruments can make one want to weep at one moment and dance with joy the next. The Oxford Sessions really showcases this power and how Floyds Row craft their songs so effortlessly.
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