Changing Horses – Cut All Strings (Single Review)

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Cut All Strings is from Changing Horses’ debut, Nashville Sessions (released June  11). The Lincoln duo, Richard Birtill (vocals and guitar) and Francesca Cullen (vocals, mandolin, violin, melodeon), mine the fertile territory of Brit-folk and have received praise from one of its most esteemed avatars, The Incredible String Band’s Robin Williamson, whose 1969 album bears the same name as the up and coming band. Already a heavy rotation track on the Steve Lamacq and Bob Harris BBC shows, as well as being on the soundtrack to an HBO documentary, Cut All Strings is infectious and resonant.

Cullen’s antique instrumentation and Birtill’s keening delivery are bolstered by galloping drums; Albion minstrelsy writ large. Chris Donohue, whose CV includes Elvis Costello & Emmylou Harris, brought the pair to Nashville after hearing their demos and his production adds muscle and economy to their English quirks. The result is somewhat akin to The White Stripes if they’d been raised on Morris-dancing and dusty copies of The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter or an unplugged Arcade Fire. This is big music laced with delicate nuances. The interplay between the couple’s voices places them within a long tradition of troubadours with female foils, but the eclecticism on the rest of The Nashville Sessions suggests that they are no one-trick ponies.

Matthew Lindsay

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