Trebuchet Music TREBCD. 0601

The Cheshire-based Trebuchet (named after a medieval European siege weapon, apparently!) turns out to be a trio of musicians experienced in playing traditional folk music with jazz and early music influences; it comprises Keith Carter-Harris (guitar, bouzouki), Steve Mansfield (flute, whistles, recorders, English concertina) and Mark Seyler (5- and 4-string electric fiddles), and though they all sing, Keith takes lead vocal duties. Trebuchet's music is described as "tradition-based but forward-looking", a tag which doesn't quite square with what I hear on Salvo, the trio's debut CD. Having said that, it's still a very appealing disc whose music has many positive features, not least the musicians' evident commitment and expertise.

Some of the instrumental colourings and blends they achieve are quite unusual too; this is I suspect at least partly due to the specific instruments Mark uses (a five-string electric fiddle and a four-string model at cello pitch), while it also helps that the musicians have an intuitive ear for achieving a full sound with minimal resources. In this latter regard there's a certain aura of 70s experimental-folk about much of the music on this disc: an impression betrayed also by a peek at the subject matter they tackle, from a retelling of the 'Death And The Lady' ballad to the Tolkienesque 'Wizard's Will' to the would-be-saltiness of 'Down To The Sea'. Once you've got a handle on Trebuchet, in fact, you'll find they have quite a distinctive sound, even though there were still times when I was reminded (in that respect) of Forest, Prism, Amazing Blondel, and among more recent outfits Napper, Bliss in particular (but that's no bad thing is it?.).

Four out of the eleven tracks are purely instrumental, ranging from ingenious concoctions like 'Martya' (a set of English tunes with a definite Bulgarian edge) and 'Spootiskerry' (a medley combining 18 th century, Scottish and Cheshire sources) to an acceptable enough 'Sheebeg & Sheemore'. Of the vocal tracks, the "cuckoo in the nest" is a take on the old Inkspots' number I 'Don't Want To Set The World On Fire', which, though imaginatively paired with a schottische "acquired from Pyewackett", in the end lives up to its title due to the slightly mannered nature of the singing. On some other tracks (e.g. 'Tom The Butcher', 'Lord Robson') the singing is just a touch abrasive or over-emphatic in some of its phrasing: maybe it's just a surfeit of enthusiasm, but either way it's not a serious criticism. In that respect Trebuchet come across a bit like one of those perfectly worthy 1970s second-string folk acts that might have appeared on a label such as Cottage, but with a greater degree of technical competency. Lest that sound like I'm damning with faint praise, that's not my intention, for I much enjoyed Trebuchet's music and I think they've a lot to offer.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.