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Single review: Moss & Jones “Ella Brown”

May 14, 2015

Moss & Jones - Ella BrownMerseyside-based multi-instrumentalist duo Moss & Jones, who are slowly but surely building a solid reputation for entertaining, enjoyable and family-friendly live shows, have taken the next logical step of releasing their first single. Comprising three studio-recorded songs, Ella Brown is available as a name-your-price download from their Bandcamp site. It’s a rare and welcome thing to find artists who draw their inspiration from a wide range of music, particularly folk, and yet still manage to add their own individual stamp and avoid sounding derivatively homogeneous.

Title track ‘Ella Brown’, taken from their forthcoming Amateur Astronomy EP, is an original song, written by Ruth and arranged, played and sung by the duo. As they explain on their blog, “It is about love, loss, and learning from both those things”. Ruth’s distinctive voice leads over a full-sounding backing of ukelele, melodica and violin with Marc providing additional harmonies on the chorus.

The second track, ‘Reynardine’, is the duo’s cover of the traditional ballad (Roud 397) and, while they keep close to the vocal melody, their less-is-more arrangement makes for a compelling listen, quite unlike any other version I’ve heard and which is currently giving me good reason to reevaluate some of the more well-known takes on this classic. Ruth demonstrates her remarkable vocal range in a confident performance, augmented by her own multitracked harmonies, with Marc providing a mellow lower-range counterpoint. Despite, or perhaps because of, the sparse instrumental arrangement of just mandolin and accordion, the end result is rhythmic and unexpectedly catchy.

‘Molly’, the third and last track, is a short and sweet jig, arranged for violin and melodica. Based on ‘Molly/Polly put the kettle on’, or ‘Jennie’s Bawbee’, it’s an unusual choice but the combination of the intrinsic humour of the tune and the duo’s undoubted skills as musicians make for something that’s a long way from a simple throwaway closer and which sits well with the previous two songs.

All in all, this is an engaging and very listenable first single; it’s an excellent overview of Moss & Jones’ sound and a great taster for the EP. Put the kettle on and give it a spin!

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