If he continues to produce albums with the fragile beauty of Trespasser, then the...
Chris White 2008-01-16
Although a respected stalwart of the U.K. folk scene for three decades now, it was only with 2005's critically-lauded The Lark Descending that Kent-born songsmith Chris Wood rose from the supporting cast to become a leading player. A powerful yet sensitively performed collection of traditional and self-penned material, The Lark… established its creator as an artist with a deep connection to the English landscape and people, harking back to a bygone age without yearning for it mawkishly.
The Trespasser sees Wood continuing to explore similar themes, and once again it's a quiet triumph. While the traditional songs are as expertly delivered as ever, it's his own compositions - delivered in a tremulous voice seeping emotion - which really stay in the memory. Opening offering, Summerfield Avenue, is dreamily pretty, if a little slight, but the album instantly moves up a gear with The Cottager's Reply; a passionate eulogy to the importance of family roots which epitomises Wood's gift for marrying delicate acoustic textures to poetic lyrics of real depth.
At 13-minutes long, England In Ribbons forms the epic centrepiece of The Trespasser. Originally recorded as part of a BBC Radio 3 tribute to traditional dance, music and song, it recreates the ancient travelling Mummers plays that once toured the English countryside in a gently swirling torrent of fiddle, guitar and narrative to become Wood's Tam Lin or A Sailor's Life. Come Down Jehovah, which closes the album, is a another highlight; Wood duets hauntingly with acclaimed Scottish vocalist Karine Polwart, giving the track a stark, spectral grace that recalls Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's best work.
As the founder of the English Acoustic Collective, a project dedicated to promoting folk music and teaching its instruments through an annual summer school, Wood's commitment to the future of his chosen genre clearly runs deep. If he continues to produce albums with the fragile beauty and profoundly human warmth of Trespasser, then that future should be very bright indeed.