A new year, a time for change or new beginnings. In this spirit of new beginnings the seven-piece folk, classical, acoustic, jazz influenced group The Old Dance School have renamed themselves The Fair Rain. The first release under their new name is 'Behind The Glass' which is scheduled for release in early Spring this year.
First track is the moving (in both senses of the word) 'All We've Ever Known' written by lead vocalist and guitarist Robin Beatty inspired by a story he heard about relatives emigrating from rural Ireland to Liverpool and the shock at the change in culture involved. It's amongst the best track I've heard from them. The twin violins of Helen Lancaster and new member Charlie Heys start the track with a looming motif which is reminiscent of Michael Nyman's soundtrack work. Robin's vocal describes the simple life they are soon to leave behind “Raised beneath a tin roof, Me and my sister cut the peat slabs for the fire.... But it was all we'd ever known.”. There's a lovely melody line picked out by Laura Carter's woodwind which carries their boat across the water as the towers and spires of their future life appear for the first time. The inequalities revealed by forced emigration 170 years ago which are still relevant today.
We have the usual collection of lovely instrumentals where their individual backgrounds of classical and jazz training (they met and formed at the Birmingham Conservatoire) are brought out. There's the characteristic interplay between the violins, brass and the complex rhythmic patterns of Jim Molyneux on 'Dream of White Horses' . 'The Hollow' has a bright violin pattern which lifts the whole track. 'As Starlings Gather' starts with a plucked guitar and a distant almost scratchy violin the track builds as the mumuration gathers and then fades back as it disperses again. 'Blue Horse' which was written as a tribute to Jim's trusty sky-blue touring van is the track with the fullest band sound on it which starts with an almost funky feel and leads onto their signature sound of a trumpet-violin marriage, before the double bass and trumpets return.
Another highlight has to 'Mannequin' . It's 1912 a time when the first modern parachutes were being trialled and a tailor in Paris named Franz Reichelt decides that he can design a wearable winged flight suit for the World War I aviators “Men'll fly for the war. With nothing to break their fall.” The press gather under the Eiffel Tower to witness the unfortunate end of this brave and selfless man as he leaps from the tower in his manned trial. The shocking footage is available via Pathe News to view.
The name may have changed but fortunately for those of us familiar with their previous albums, the captivating tunes of utter beauty created by their stunning musicianship has not ; it may have enhanced and evolved them into something better.