There are few things more exciting than discovering sparkling new talent, and, without a doubt, something rather special has been stirring in Somerset since 2011. Ford Collier and Alex Garden are currently celebrating the release of their explosive début album - The Album (or what you will) at the age of just 16 years. Together they are known as The Drystones, a name which in itself hints at raw talent, heritage and strength.
The Drystones draw in the listener with their youth and energy, creating six equally animated and engaging tracks. The delightfully written sleeve notes admit to influences of lion taming, magic and the undeniable importance of a good chuckle during recording, and the merriment continues when we press ’play’. The whole album speaks of a tale of two musicians who not only share a passion for playing and writing music, but - more importantly - also relish having a jolly good time in the process. As a listener, it is a pleasure to be welcomed into such a close partnership.
Most of the tracks are old favourites but are treated to thoughtful and genuinely inventive arrangements. The combination of tradition and youth fuses beautifully in an often adventurously-paced nod to some well-loved tunes. Fortunately, The Hummus Set allows us a little breather - if only initially - amidst the general up-tempo nature of the album, creating contrast and making for a truly compelling listen.
Nestled amongst the traditional tunes we discover The Eastwater Dance, composed by Ford and Alex themselves. The track blends in perfectly with the general feel of the album but stands out in confirming the duo both as fine musicians and as true artists with a natural and creative flair for composition.
A special mention must go to the ’wicked mad beatboxing’ (as described by the duo themselves) in The Peacock Followed the Hen, which gives the track a fresh feel and injects into the album a certain vibrancy and adventure, highlighting the duo’s success in presenting us with an alternative outlook on traditional music.
Alex, taking charge of the fiddle, handles each set of tunes beautifully, playing with real conviction and constantly adding his own individual twist. Showcasing a variety of techniques, he works to create a fuller sound and indeed we are undeniably impressed by such nimble finger work.
The partnership is completed by Ford’s dynamic performance on guitar and whistles; he competently balances the pivotal role of carrying along tunes with providing original and telling accompaniment. The introduction of the whistle adds to the playful feel of the album and presents a certain delicacy without losing any vivacity. Careful use of harmonies, rhythms and arrangements brings each set of tunes to life.
The Album (or what you will) is a feast of an album for those who enjoy tradition at its finest and who aren’t averse to a few surprises along the way. We’re certainly left wondering what else the charismatic duo could be hiding up their sleeves. The best news? Hold on to your hats - these two are only just getting started.Rebekah Foard
Self-release late 2012
1. The Peacock Followed the Hen
2. The Eastwater Dance
3. The Hummus Set
4. The Summer Set
5. The Rochdale Coconut Dance
6. The Cuckoo’s Nest