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Floyds Row
The Oxford Sessions

Centaur Records (2017)
Review by Tom Orr

Despite having been formed nearly a decade ago, Floyds Row, named for a thoroughfare in their home base of Oxford, have but one album to their name. Recorded in 2013 and bearing a 2017 release date, The Oxford Sessions has a classical and early music air with some folk and traditional tinges. The band has since expanded in both membership and musical scope, giving some of their more recent performances as a sextet (which can be seen online) the spirited feel of an ensemble that wouldn't be out of place at a Renaissance fair, a chamber music event, a folk festival or anywhere the ever-dodgy label of "world" music can be applied. Those very fine performances can be critiqued on their own terms and likely have been.

The core ensemble is the trio of Alistair Anderson (concertina, Northumbrian small pipes), Andrew Arceci (viola da gamba, double bass) and Chris Ferebee (guitar, mandolin, cittern, lyre). Vocalists Hannah James and Joshua Copeland, flautist Becky Rea and harmonium player James Percival are listed as guests. Split evenly between original compositions and arrangements of others' works, the tracks are more likely to make you lay back and ponder rather then get up and dance.

Anderson's concertina frequently provides jaunty counterpoint to the moodier strains of the stringed instruments, so that even the reverent tone of tunes like "Fantasia Upon One Note" and "Caedmon's Hymn" (the latter featuring lovely dual vocals by James and Copeland) have more than a hint of brightness among the shadows.

The more bubbly offerings ("Howell's Delight" and "Twilight") are equally impressive in their mix of sophistication and playfulness, helping to make the album seem like a series of movements within a larger piece rather than a series of stand-alone selections. The Oxford Sessions is 40 minutes of splendid music that touches various bases without overstaying its welcome in any of them. Give a listen and prepare to be enchanted.

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