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Sunday, 28 July 2013

From Good Stock by Tandem, at the Warwick folk festival

Earlier this week a CD slid on to the mat at The Glamour Cave that soon began a career on my stereo, making end-to-end appearances. It's a debut and when I found the band in question was going to be at the Warwick folk festival I resisted posting about it then and there, thinking that it might be a bit more interesting if I waited until after I'd met them.

Tandem are a three piece - Dave Malkin on guitar (centre), Charlie Pell (right) on fiddle and sampler Ben Corrigan - although they've been presenting at Warwick as an acoustic two-piece: they'll be playing live with Ben later on this summer.

Initially they reminded me of Lau, but with interesting vocals - which identify them as being not from Scotland despite early indications to the contrary - and sudden excursions into a world of digital noise that seem not at all out of place despite the traditional sound it's built around.

It turns out the Lau-ishness is not a coincidence, as they once supported Lau.

However, they're young - in their early twenties - and Dave is finishing at Trinity music school in the old naval hospital in Greenwich imminently. When I saw them on Friday, sweating it out in temperatures that must have been soaring towards the high 80s on the Plaza stage, which is basically a concrete playground, they happened to mention that they should have met each other much earlier than they actually did.

"I had grandparents on my mother's side who were extremely eccentric," said Dave, over a moderate amount of luminous orange hallucinagenic cider. "They amassed a huge collection of mechanical organ instruments. They had two fairground organs, one of which we sampled for the album, a whole load of music boxes and gramophones, and about 7,000 shellac records. When they died I got the lot.

"Charlie's father is the last remaining mechanical organ builder in the country and he'd done some work for my grandad.

"Then my father's side of the family are publicans and their pub, in Whaplode Drove, was three doors up from Charlie's house. But we never met - and it gets weirder.

"We were at school together and still didn't meet: we were both at Spalding grammar school in Lincolnshire and Charlie was a couple of years above me."

A school concert after Charlie had already left eventually provided a catalyst for their musical relationship. These days they're both in London and had the album launch the Cutty Sark pub in Greenwich the other day. However, Charlie's family interest in steam gives him a legacy that could turn out to be useful for music festivals.

"We've got an enormous caravan that the whole family can fit in and we used to go out together to steam fairs and the like: until you've seen the Great Dorset Steam Fair you haven't lived. On the last night they get all the traction engines in a massive line and they toot their horns at midnight. I believe it's bigger than Glastonbury."

And it may have been the hallucinogenic cider but when I asked Charlie to draw a diagram of the caravan he did...

From Good Stock is a subtle, intriguing and melodic debut. I'd urge you to have a listen.

* You can buy the album here.

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