This page has notes from the 16 page colour booklet that comes with the CD, including an introduction, and notes about each track.
warp & weft
Two intriguing words: “warp”, suggesting something a little changed from its original form, but still recognisable; “weft” the complement to warp in weaving. The two work with and around each other, following more or less predictable paths to create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. We embarked on this project with the aim of exploring the range of music that two acoustic performers could make, finding almost limitless possibilities, even within a limited range of instruments and music, that didn’t stray too far from traditional roots. Roles are fluid, warp quickly becomes weft and then changes back again.
We both have varied backgrounds and tastes in music, encompassing classical, folk—including traditional Irish, and Celtic more widely—folk-rock, bluegrass, world music, ‘early’ music, and including ‘cross-over’ bands. As we played and chatted, we also found that we both also have mixed cultural heritage—both at least 1/2 English, Steve a wee bit Scottish, with a spicing of Bavarian, Mike with French, including Breton.
We have had a lot of fun weaving together these many colourful threads. The resulting musical woven watercourse (let’s warp the metaphor while we’re at it!) tumbles and meanders through many lands, and sometimes overflows in surprising ways. The meandering is mainly around Europe; plus one track (5) from Canada and one (6) from the USA. All the songs and tunes are, we think, beautiful, captivating music, and we hope that you enjoy listening to them as much as we enjoy playing them.
Mike Cosgrave & Steve Banks, Devon, England, April 2016
1. Moscow : Moscow (Russia), Jovano Jovanke (Macedonia), Geamparale (Rumania)—trad. arr. Cosgrave & Banks. We start with the Easternmost foray on the record, with nods to the wild gypsy influence so evident in that music.
2. Tjønneblomen : Norway. Gjermund Haugen, arranged Mike Cosgrave. Mike came across this tune on Annbjørg Lien’s album Felefeber (Fiddle Fever). It is a beautiful slow waltz by renowned Hardanger fiddler Gjermund Haugen (1914-1976). Our version is more closely related to the serenity of Annbjørg Lien’s than to the more idiosyncratic version in circulation by the composer himself. Steve plays his Hardanger fiddle (in the photo below), the beautiful national instrument of Norway, whose haunting sound comes from the four sympathetic strings.
3. Ducks On Ice : Ducks On Ice, The Wrong Glasses—Mike Cosgrave. Two tunes by Mike, which originated in the mid-2000s during Mike’s tenure with Bath-based bluegrass virtuosi Daily Planet. Around this time Mike became aware of the work of Bela Fleck and Chris Thile (both independently and together), both of whom have been crucial in extending the boundaries and vocabulary of bluegrass, including crazy tunes that sound like jigs and reels, but subjected to the audio equivalent of a hall of mirrors. Ducks On Ice remained unfinished until the inception of Cosgrave & Banks, which gave Mike the necessary kick to complete it. The set is always a favourite at gigs.
4. Nightingale : England, Brittany. The Nightingale—trad. arr. Cosgrave & Banks., La Valse des Pastouriaux—Jacky Molard. A Devon and Cornwall favourite traditional song, bookended by a charming waltz by fiddler Jacky Molard of Breton band Pennoù Skoulm, who have been very influential on our generation of UK and Ireland-based traditional musicians. Steve brought the song to the project, but Mike was independently aware of it as the opening track on Jackie Oates’s album Saturnine.
5. Oliver Schroer : Canada. Horseshoes & Rainbows, Ansgar’s Jig, December 16th, all by Oliver Schroer. Oliver Schroer was a Canadian fiddler, and that rare calibre of musician whose work, which drew on myriad influences, was always possessed of a clear voice and suffused with raw humanity. While visiting Toronto with his then band Sin é in the early 90s, Mike was lucky enough to meet and play with Oliver, and his debut album Jigzup, from which these tunes all originate, remains a firm favourite to this day. Oliver died of leukaemia in 2008, aged just 52. RIP.
6. The Maple’s Lament : USA. Laurie Lewis. Steve came across this beautiful song by chance, drawn to the title of the CD—Earth & Sky (a phrase from this song). It’s by American bluegrass fiddler and singer-song writer, Laurie Lewis . The violin is ‘speaking’, remembering when it was alive, a Maple tree.
7. Waltzes : France, England. Vals Micheline—trad. arr. Cosgrave & Banks, La Valsounette—Jacky Molard, Oaken Pin—Steve Turner. Three contrasting takes on the waltz, from traditional French, through contemporary Breton (another by Jacky Molard of Pennoù Skoulm), to a five-time waltz by fantastic Dartmoor-based accordionist, Steve Turner.
8. Hårgalåten : Sweden. Trad. arr. Cosgrave & Banks. Steve heard Totnes-based Swedish musician, Rosa Rebecka, perform this as a song, loved the story, and came up with this devilish fiddle arrangement. The song tells of a group of young people who decided to skip church and go dancing instead, on the Hårga mountain. A fiddler offers to play for them. They accept. He plays, and plays… and doesn’t stop. They notice the fiddler has cloven feet. They can’t stop dancing. They wear out their shoes, then their feet… until there is just a circle of skulls dancing on the ground!
9. Into The Day : Steve Banks. This song was inspired by the painting below by Steve’s friend, Ron Pyatt, and by Ron’s journey through a life-threatening illness. Thanks to another (mutual) friend, Eric Maddern, for the line “leaves made audible, make the wind visible”, a beautiful image of the inter-weaving of the visible and invisible worlds. www.ronpyatt.co.uk
10. Herr Roloff : Scotland. Herr Roloff’s Farewell—James Scott Skinner arr. Cosgrave & Banks, The Duke of Roxburgh’s Farewell to the Blackmount Forest—Angus Mackay arr. Cosgrave & Banks, The Mathematician—James Scott Skinner, arr. Cosgrave & Banks. James Scott Skinner (1843 – 1927), the famous Scottish fiddler and dancing master, wrote the first simple, sublime, tune of this set for his friend, Herr Roloff. The second tune is a strident March by famous piper Angus Mackay (1813—1859), who was household piper to Queen Victoria. Steve learned the tune from Tim Malling, of the (sadly departed) New Rope String band. For the final hornpipe, The Mathematician, Steve followed Scott Skinner’s example in devising a slightly fiendish and humorous variation. (On occasion, Steve is known to sport a kilt, in honour of his 3/16 Menzies ancestry; but, it has to be said, his sporran is nowhere near the size of Scott Skinner’s).
Credits for copyright works: (2) by Gjermund Haugen, © Gunnar Haugen; (4) & (7) Jacky Molard/INNACOR; (5) by Oliver Schroer/Big Dog Music; (6) (including lyrics text) Laurie Lewis/Spruce and Maple Music, admin. by BMG, ASCAP; (7) Oaken Pin—Steve Turner.
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