One of the more colourful folk albums of 2011, from a pair of true virtuosos.
Colin Irwin 2011-11-23
Wriggle and Writhe is an unexpected union between two masterful musicians who’ve long played key support roles in other line-ups. An extraordinarily versatile and unpredictable guitarist and button accordion player, Tim Edey has forged his formidable reputation on the back of singular contributions to any number of Celtic acts, notably Sharon Shannon, Lunasa, Mike McGoldrick, Altan and Capercaillie. New Zealander Brendan Power, meanwhile, has a bulging harmonica CV which lists Kate Bush, Sting, Van Morrison and most of Ireland’s folk royalty among his collaborators.
Yet here they blaze into the spotlight as a duo notable not only for virtuoso playing, but an incorrigible sense of fun and mischief not necessarily apparent in their other incarnations. They’ve been nominated as best duo at the 2012 BBC Folk Awards while Edey’s seamless ability to switch from intricate acoustic guitar to explosive accordion with barely a twitch also finds him in the frame as musician of the year. This debut album marks the pair’s full-on arrival as a unit that goes way beyond the already considerable sum of its parts.
There’s almost a jazz mindset about the freedom with which they tackle tunes as diverse as the rampaging The Lilting Banshee / The Corner House and the rather daintier and beauteous O’Carolan Tune, segueing elegantly into Connaughtman’s Rambles. There’s some fiery stuff, too, from non-Celtic traditions, as they avariciously drink in Eastern European folk music to play Danovska Horo with flowing abandon, while Power exhibits his impudent brilliance to full effect on the deliciously jaunty title-track.
They’re rather less convincing, however, on the vocal tracks. They both sing – in a fashion – and it works well enough on a lovely chorus song like Winds and Tides Permitting or the comedic Our Lady of the Road, Power’s warming tale of falling in love with a Sat Nav. But they’re painfully exposed on Steve Cooney’s more heartfelt Bless the Road and Power struggles to deliver V for Blues with any real conviction.
That said, they’re an unusual duo, both in the breadth of their material and the expert, yet excitingly reckless way they attack it, and this is one of the more colourful albums of 2011.