Cambridge and Walker (from the album Wheel and Dive available on Land End records) (by Chris Wheatley)
In terms of Folk music pedigrees, this duo, based in Cambridge, UK, have it all. David Cambridge has long been a prominent figure in the thriving Cambridge Folk-scene, as both vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, where his knowledge and enthusiasm run to designing and constructing his own instruments. His involvement with the genre dates back to the 1970s, when he ran his own folk club at university. Jenna Walker, also a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, possesses the academic qualifications to match Cambridge's practicality, with a Masters degree in Traditional Music. They've been playing together since 2016, releasing a well-received EP, Worry, Grief, and Care, in 2019. As with so many artists, the pandemic delayed plans to release this, their full-length debut, but I'm glad to say that it is finally available.
Wheel and Dive offers a mix of originals, traditional songs, and some intriguing covers. The title track, and album opener, unfurls in a cloud of birdsong, from which piano and acoustic guitar rise throughout a beguiling, slow-paced composition. Sedate, sparse, and yet warm and enveloping, it is a lovely beginning. Bowed strings and vocal harmonies colour a gently-shifting pastoral landscape. There's a gentle majesty to this track, which rises and falls like a softly-rolling ocean. The arrangement is at once sophisticated and yet readily accessible. This is music to soothe the soul and excite the imagination.
Richard Thompson’s “Waltzing's for Dreamers” comes to life as a sunlit vista of bucolic landscapes and young lovers. It captures the poignant spirit of the original, but the duo add enough of the new to make it their own. Guitar flows like a river, strings lament, and Cambridge and Walker's vocals are something to savour. Cambridge has a distinctive, expressive voice, strong yet with a compelling fragility. Walker's vocals offer a softer, rounded contrast, blossoming out where needed into an arresting power. Together, they make for an enchanting combination. An acapella rendition of Tom Wait's stirring “The Briar and The Rose” provides a moving tribute to that fact.
Joni Mitchell’s gentle “A Case Of You” follows next, here taken at a slightly slower pace than the original. Cambridge and Walker pull out the Folksy heart of this beautiful song, with more of that fine finger-picked guitar and harmonizing. “Come All Ye Fair”, with its brooding, somewhat melancholic strings, is nevertheless as heart-stirring as you could wish for. The duo use their instruments sparingly to notable effect. There is a shaded, pastel-coloured allure to every track laid down here.
The Cambridge-original, “Sea Change”, with some fabulous, subtle guitar flourishes and nuanced, under-stated piano is equal to the duo's covers. Propelled by a restrained power and a delicately building arrangement, it's a wonderful track which highlights the duo's knack of using a little to accomplish much. John Martyn's slow-burning “Hurt in Your Heart” is here transformed into a lilting Folk ballad, with circling guitar. “Unfortunate Tailor” closes the set with more sparkling finger-picking and waves of accordion.
Wheel and Dive is a lovingly-crafted set of songs, old and new, infused with the spirit of English folk. Anyone remotely interested in this genre will want to check this out. (by Chris Wheatley)
Listen and buy the music of Cambridge and Walker from AMAZON
More information is available on the Cambridge and Walker website