Claire Mann and Aaron Jones
Tradmusic TMRCD05; 48 minutes; 2005
Ah, now here really is a gem! Anyone who owns Wooden Flute Obsession 2 will already be familiar with the name of Newcastle upon Tyne’s flute player, Claire Mann, though probably unaware that she’s also no mean fiddler, whistler and singer too. Aaron Jones’s name will also be recognizable to anyone who follows Craobh Rua or Old Blind Dogs, two bands in which is bouzouki, guitar, bass and stirring voice have made a more than creditable impact.
The pair met in Edinburgh and Secret Orders is the first recorded product of their musical labours. In the company of musicians such accordionist Leo McCann, Kevin McGuire on double bass and bodhrán player Martin O’Neill the pair have produced a fresh fruit of an album whose succulence is enhanced by stimulating instrumentals and some of the most spine-chilling vocal harmonies you will hear in a very long time.
For the latter look no further than the dazzling Saints and Sinners, penned by David Francey, which represents probably Aaron’s best ever recorded vocals and a multi-layered chorus which is truly emphatic in its intensity – the harmonica of Little Al Price doesn’t just grace the song but threads its needle with skeins of unknowable atmospheric depth.
The instrumental tracks are simply charm incarnate as Claire’s flute, whistles and fiddle investigate the melodic possibilities with an almost ethereal knowingness and Aaron’s bouzouki or guitar lays down the sparsest of backdrops.
Frankly, Secret Orders is by far and away the most thrilling, exciting, well-honed and utterly enjoyable album this reviewer’s jaded ears have encountered for a long, long time. Not to be missed!
14th June, 2005