Artist: Will Pound
Album: A Cut Above (and live review from The Forge @ Basingstoke)
‘A Cut Above’ is exactly that! It is simply the best fun on a CD for a very long time. We caught these guys playing at Basingstoke Anvil after seeing Will there a year or two ago. If you see one gig this spring, go and see them, you will kick yourself if you miss out (http://www.squarerootspromotions.co.uk/will-pound-band/) Not only are WPB a collection of excellent musicians but the camaraderie and joy in what they do shines through in the music, humour and Henry’s socks! What is also fundamental is the interaction with the audience. Every song is introduced or explained but there’s no long monologues nor is it contrived. It’s personal and you get a glimpse into what Will’s gift means to him. A few seconds to set the music in context, a crack or two between the players which leaves everyone smiling then away they go.
Will is an astounding harmonica player. Brilliant at the more traditional dance and folk oriented compositions but also able to create sounds and rhythms that are just remarkable. Here is someone aged 26 at the top of his game and clearly raring to go higher/lower/faster/slower than anyone else. Plus he has a band that can and do go all the way. Henry Webster playing fiddle is a joy to watch, tall, quirky with a wry smile and then he just disappears into the music. John Parker virtually dances with his bass hunched over in a tango, caressing in a waltz, a gentle lament, then some solid slap (and tickle), even beatbox – it’s all there as he wields the instrument on stage. Chris Serjeant plays his complex, fingerpicking guitar style with wit and ease. They also played the lovely ‘Bay of Biscay’ from his fine album ‘Heirlooms’.
For all their individual and collective ability there is absolutely no self-indulgence or hubris in their show. They are doing what they do best and it’s a privilege to watch, listen and be a part of the evening. Enough of the band – what about the CD (most of which is played live in their set.) ?
This is a great collection of trad songs that many a banjo/Americana fan will recognise including “Soldier’s Joy”, “Old Joe Clark” and, there’s some nice banjo on “Morgan Rattler”. “Soldier’s Joy” sets the whole album off at a jaunty pace which morphs into a shanty-style Irish piece and then to a high-speed dance. Old Joe Clark is a cracker and the penultimate track of “Clinch Mountain Back Step” is one to put down the pint and grab the missus to!
This is a feast for the traditional ‘folkie’ looking for waltzes, rattles and reels a-plenty. “White Jock” is a beautiful whimsical morris dance, “93 Not Out” has a similar ‘Old Albion’ field to it and “Mrs Saggs” is a fine Chris Wood composition.
The influence of traditional folk, shanty, dance and morris tunes is there throughout in the times and tempos. All are played with an exuberance that simply makes you smile and almost get up and dance the morris – another of Will’s passions! Every track is a winner, I defy anyone to sit still throughout this album.
One final comment. “Amazing Grace” – I confess I’ve heard it so many times that I am a bit weary BUT then I heard Will & John and I take it all back. This is the best and most individual version I have ever heard. It starts very slow, plain and simple harmonica with double-bass played delicately then into slide, then slap then add in ‘beatbox’ (!) as they build the song into a rattle-snake high speed harmonica crescendo. It is extraordinary and is one of my favourite tracks on the CD.