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PONS AELIUS - Fire Under The Bridge 

PONS AELIUS - Fire Under The Bridge 
Private Label PACD003 

A second album from a band whose debut was in my 2017 Top Ten, Fire Under The Bridge moves this six-piece instrumental band further along the road of contemporary pan-Celtic folk - in a good way! There's a strong Scottish flavour to most tracks, especially when Jordan Aikin fires up the highland pipes, but the music can also lean over Hadrian's Wall (the source of this group's name) to the music of northern England, or west towards the sound of Irish bands like Flook, Slide, Moxie or Cúig. Pipes, whistles, flute, banjo, mandolin, guitars, drums and double bass give a lot of scope for different textures, and Pons Aelius exploit this: full throttle dance music on the title track is followed by the slow reel, Charlie Smith's Recovery, on whistles and mandolin, the swaggering banjo-led jig, Weston Giant, picks up for the ominous Ambassador Disaster with a grimy drum'n'bass back line. The Rafa Benitez Jig moves smoothly from waltz to jig and back again, swapping between banjo, flute and pipes. After a gentle guitar and woodwind interlude, that thumping rhythm section is back to underpin the slow Sleeping American, a subtle Latin feel to the melody before it shifts into something more akin to Niteworks or Treacherous Orchestra. Elinor's is a slow air full of sadness, passed from player to player, a beautiful piece. The final two tracks return to Scottish piping territory, driving reels, strathspeys and jigs, tastily arranged and superbly performed, a powerful end to a most enjoyable CD.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 131 of The Living Tradition magazine