Erstwhile members of Danny And The Champions of the World, London husband and wife duo, Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou have achieved something of a coup by scooping up acclaimed producer Ethan Johns to helm this, their fourth album release. Johns had toured with them and was somewhat enamoured of their sound and welcomed them into his home studio. The album, in the main consisting of the duo’s voices and Trevor’s acoustic guitar does sound great, crystal clear, the voices ringing out with the spare additional instrumentation given just the right amount of space and colour. The press release notes that the album has the couple moving on from their folk sound although there’s not a significant shift in their sound here. Instead there’s a confidence and assurance that might reflect the guiding hands of Johns at the desk and a year of solid touring supporting name acts at auditoriums across the world. In addition there’s a nod to an increasing American influence in the music, a hint of which is offered in the cover art which is a recreation of their pose on their 2010 single England. Instead of a George Cross painted behind them there’s now a stark black rendering of the album title. Do they feel estranged from the current version of Englishness or demonstrating that they’ve spread their wings?
There are certainly some comments on the state of the nation here, finger pointing songs as Dylan called them; the wheezing harmonica led The Relinquished, which bemoans factory working the exemplar here. The Dylanesque style here is repeated throughout the album especially on the opening title song and the declamatory Babe To Cradle with the latter’s opening lines “You callous kings and queens, it’s time to lay down your rusty crowns, they don’t impress us anymore,” reminiscent of Greenwich Village folkies and Broadside magazine. Much of the album indeed has a sixties glow, the tender Our Tryingest Hour rippling with echoes of Paul Simon and it’s tempting indeed to think of Trevor and Hannah-Lou as a modern version of Richard and Mimi Farina here. However there is a definite whiff of that dappled English folk sensibility on the mesmerising If only I Were The Kind where the vocals are shadowed by some nuanced guitar feedback. Again, there’s a retro feel here which in this case recalls the very early Fairport Convention when they were in thrall to Joni Mitchell and not yet folk rocking.