Peter Knight’s Gigspanner - From Poets to Wives [Talking Elephant Records - 2021]
Since leaving Steeleye Span in 2013, violinist Peter Knight has devoted all of his attention to his trio Gigspanner. The group have received a wealth of positive press and have developed a reputation as a hard-working and ground-breaking force for change in the UK folk scene. Maverick magazine described them as “pushing at the boundaries, expanding the possibilities and in the process making some of the most beautiful music the genre has to offer", whilst Spiral Earth described them as having “notes seemingly plucked from the stars and rhythms from the equator”. Alongside Peter on violin the band are made up of guitarist Roger Flack and Sacha Trochet on drums.
From Poets to Wives is a compilation of tracks taken from the band’s four previous albums and operates more as an introduction to the band for new fans or as a reminder to others of the music the band have released during the first phase of their career. The album opens with one of the most celebrated tracks of all time "She Move Through the Fair". This is a lovely instrumental rendition with some excellent lead violin work from Peter and some amazing guitar work from Roger. "Bold Riley" is up next and picks up the tempo a little, whilst making for a great singalong. This is followed by "The Blackbird", another well-crafted instrumental, and although it’s a little more up tempo than the opener, it features some fine lead fiddle playing from Peter. "The Butterfly", a beautiful, mellow, and slightly sombre piece that keeps the quality of playing at a very high standard follows and is probably one of my favourite tracks on the album. As a group they seem to really come up trumps on these sorts of tracks. "Bows of London" is an eerie folk ballad that is a slight variation on the classic Two Sisters that has been covered by any number of artists. Whilst not the best version I have heard, this is still a pretty good version, this situation is repeated on the next song, "Death and The Lady", a superb version of which was recorded a few years ago by Shirley Collins. Once again, while these may not be the definitive versions of these tracks, they remain really strong versions. "Urban’s Reel" and "Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór" are both pleasant enough instrumental tracks and fit nicely alongside the other material on show. The album closes with "The Hard Times of Old England", a nice reworking of the traditional classic and an appropriate way to bring the proceedings to a close.
Overall, From Poets to Wives is a pleasant and at times adventurous collection of traditional folk songs mixed with some original material. Whilst the instrumental tracks are pleasant and beautifully performed, I would have perhaps liked to see the band include one or two more vocal tracks, but this is really just a personal criticism and as I say the performances are excellent throughout. After years of playing in Steeleye Span, Peter Knight, has seen it done and bought the t-shirt more times than most people will ever do in one lifetime, and this shines through in the excellent performances, and the crisp and clear production that ensures this does not feel like a collection of disparate tracks but gels really well.Darren Charles