Andy Casserley is the reeds man in the English Dance Band Captain Swing. While
Captain Swing may be a fairly eclectic outfit this record tips its hat fairly
and squarely at the alter of English Tradition and a welcome recording it is
too. Andy presents 14 songs and a couple of dance sets with no apology at all;
what you hear is what you get. The songs are generally although not always accompanied
by concertina or melodeon, in a refreshingly sparse manner. The themes run the
usual gauntlet of seafaring, deception, religion and soldiering and are sung
in a natural voice that sits very nicely on the listener's ear.
I imagine that Andy plays all the instruments here, mostly melodeon and concertina with the occasional mandola sounding stringed thing, tin whistle and clarinet. While the liner notes contain good notes on the songs there is no information regarding musicianship and instrumentation -- this would have been nice to have. I must say that Andy's playing shines with his boxwork and the way he weaves his accompaniment into the songs. I have some reservations about the use of the clarinet, as it lends an eastern European flavour that, while working in the big band setting, seems a little odd beside the material on this CD. The tune sets tend to trip up rhythmically but at the end of the day it's all about the singing, and Mr. Casserley possesses a wonderful voice that is immediately arresting. His deliveries are unhurried, not overly metered and very tuneful. Stand outs include "When Birmingham is a Seaport Town" and "Clerk Saunders".
Given the propensity to include synthesizers, drum loops and uilleann pipes in English folk music these days it's a treat to listen to an album that is quietly sophisticated without the trappings of modern technology. Not knowing overly much about English Traditional Music I was delighted to have the opportunity to review this album which comes recommended.
Judging by their Web site Captain Swing and Andy Casserley have been cruising just under the radar of English Folk recognition, but this release should bring Mr Casserley to wider attention.