Published on 28th July 2015
Fernwood – Arcadia
Music has been around for millennia, instruments come and go, some last, some set the standard (Stradivarius?). Les Paul did not invent music with the invention of the electric guitar, and perhaps that’s where Fernwood come in. Taking old instruments and music from many cultures and combining them into something, if not unique, certainly different.
The album cover reflects the content; it is earthy, warm and, to a degree, comforting. This is the third album from the band, comprising musicians Gayle Ellett and Todd Montgomery, working with a variety of acoustic instruments and, as various websites have said, producing music that is both traditional and contemporary. It’s not going to change the world but there are times when you just want the world to pass you by and Fernwood suits that mood perfectly, helping to wash away the cares, whether with a book in your hand or just closing your eyes to drift. Like Snow White I have preferred drifting.
How to categorise Fernwood? Progressive? Regressive? A friend categorises progressive music as that which pushes the boundaries of what is the norm, or at least I think that’s what he means. That which doesn’t tread the same paths as the ’70’s prog giants. I can see the point, but disagree; we look to the past for structure and comfort, and the future for innovation. There’s nothing wrong with referencing the past, as long as it is not a direct copy. This isn’t, but is probably not for those who love a power chord.
Arcadia is familiar and different, ticking a lot of boxes for me, although I wish that both Lost Night and Crossing the Divide carried on for longer as they are truncated before I had finished listening.
There are times where it awakens my folk ears, at others the acoustic touches and passages of Pink Floyd. References are fairly pointless here; the odd melody I think I might have heard before with hints of the medieval, Eastern European and Russian Steppes, but it remains of its own.
It is cinematic and you can see why it has a number of TV credits to its name, at times hauntingly beautiful it is a lovely album and I shall use it by firelight, for woodlands walks, romps across Dartmoor, coastal strolls and the moments when my mind seeks solace from the world’s dark places. There is nothing lengthy here and sometimes I would wish for more so as to remain lost in that moment, but I still enjoy. The running time is around 40 minutes and as a download it is good value at $10 from Bandcamp, and $14 for the CD is not bad either; and for “vinyl-holics” twenty bucks.
For those who like to pigeonhole, I’m sorry, I won’t – too broad, too beautiful. You will find your own favourites, mine changes with my mood as I am sure yours will too.
01. Bells Spring (3:44)
02. The Pan Chaser (4:56)
03. Vision at Vasquez Rocks (3:59)
04. Red Hill Trail (3:51)
05. The Lost Night (4:20)
06. Crossing the Divide (3:48)
07. Owens Hideaway (3:51)
08. Young Mountain Memory (3:17)
09. After The Big Sky Falls (2:41)
10. Escape From Sycamore Canyon (4:46)
11. Winter Way (3:12)
Gayle Ellett & Todd Montgomery – Multiple acoustic instruments