These cats all come packing pedigrees from the local folk scene; Sam, for instance, is one half of the illustrious Gillespie Brothers, that troubadour duo from Northumbria celebrated for their string sorcery and polished woodwind wizardry. Abrahams is a multi-instrumentalist who’s been known to roll with Dowally and even strut his stuff with the soul-funk ensemble, The Foo Birds. Michael Starkey, the banjo-wielding maestro with that clawhammer mojo, forms a dynamic duo with the talented Hannah Read. And Petyt, with her distinctive fiddling, adds her own unique stamp to the mix. Over the course of their eight-year alliance, this motley crew has fine-tuned their sonic arsenal to razor-sharp precision.
Their modus operandi? A modern Trans-Atlantic approach that fuses American folk with their native traditionals, reimagining them with their own elegant instrumental flair. After the captivating “Brokeback,” a deft instrumental driven by banjo and guitar sorcery, adorned with ethereal fiddle work that whispers of the Appalachian mountains, we’re ushered into the realm of “Shake Sugaree.” This little ditty, initially penned by Elisabeth Cotten in ’65, has since evolved into a bona fide traditional, having been passed through the capable hands of Stefan Grossman, Taj Mahal, and more recently, Rhiannon Giddens and Catfish Keith. Gillespie’s quivering vocals are embellished with harmonious accents in a subdued rendition. Then, Starkey steps into the vocal spotlight with the second cover, “Little Satchel,” a bluegrass gem from ’68 inspired by the classic “Katie Dear”; here, once more, we’re treated to a serene interpretation.
Following an extended introduction, we’re graced with the soft, whispering vocals of Petyt in “Crossing Over Water,” a contribution from the fiddler herself. With “The Flood,” we’re thrust into the midst of a sonic tempest. But fear not, for in the enchanting duet “Down The River,” presented by Sam and Dan, the tranquility is restored.
Their third full-length offering, “The Flood,” undoubtedly carries echoes of the Appalachian tradition, yet Wayward Jane doesn’t forsake their British/Scottish roots. The result is a strikingly diverse opus where these traditions blend seamlessly into a personal tapestry of sound.