Layers of Ages, Gigspanner’s long-awaited third album received numerous plaudits from folk reviewers when it was released last year. Deservedly so. Fiddle-player, Peter Knight, guitarist, Roger Flack, and percussionist extraordinaire, Vincent Salzfaas, have returned with another absolute gem.
Bows Of London opens the album, a song exploring those age-old themes sibling rivalry, murder and haunted musical instruments made out of human bones (well of course…) What really adds to the macabre nature of the subject matter though is the beautifully calm, understated way in which Knight delivers the lyrics. Death And The Lady is another highlight. Coming in at over nine minutes long, dark, brooding electric violin blends with pounding conga drums and Spanish-flavoured guitar to create a wonderfully atmospheric soundscape. However, for those yet to experience Gigspanner it’s difficult to emphasise the breadth of musical influences that this band explore. There’s lots of well known traditional material on the album, of course. But folk doesn’t even begin to describe the vast range of sounds you get to hear coming out of the speakers when Gigspanner are playing. King Of The Fairies, for example, has a Latin American feel while Louisina Flack immediately puts you in mind of a furiously energetic Cajun hoedown.
Not only have Gigspanner brought a fresh perspective on some really well-known traditional songs, the album revisits a couple of songs closely associated with Knight’s former band, Steeleye Span. There is a great version of Mad Tom of Bedlam which is given that unique Gigspanner treatment, as well as a new version of Hard Times Of Old England. The latter was recorded by Steeleye Span at the height of their rocked-up, mid-70s commercial peak. But it gets a thorough reworking here as a gentle, mournful ballad, providing a lovely finish to the album.
Having played Gigspanner’s previous two albums to death over recent years, it’s been wonderful to finally have a new one to play over these past few weeks. And what a masterpiece it is, wholly deserving of all the praise it’s received thus far.
Released: May 2015