John Spiers and Jon Boden / Bellow
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John Spiers and Jon Boden (Fellside)

John Spiers (melodeon) and Jon Boden (fiddle) present their 2003 release and it does not get much better than this for fans of English folk music. The tradition is strong, the musicianship is exceptional and the energy and verve bring it all to life. In all but a few cases it's all delivered as duets, no overdubs... Benji Kirkpatrick adds a bit of bouzouki on a few tracks.

Prickle Eye Bush
Sloe Gin Set
Courting Too Slow
Outlandish Knight
Ah yes, a breath of fresh air, as they say. Spiers & Boden's debut album Through & Through knocked a few heads together with the originality of the arrangements and the vitality of the playing and singing, and there were those who grumped and frowned and didn't get it at all. But now they've had time to think and absorb and see more of this buoyant duo there can be no excuses and BBC Horizon award safely tucked under their arms, the world is surely ready for S&B.

Like Eliza Carthy, Kate Rusby and the other young guns, they are simply giving folk song the essential ingredient it has lacked for so long - the vitality of youth and originality of thought. They are but the latest in a long and noble tradition and their material is scarcely radical or trailblazing, not with The Outlandish Knight, Copshawholme Fair, Courting Too Slow, Prickle Eye Bush and a couple of famous Cotswold morris tunes on board. But while there is no shortage of youthful brilliance around, others often go short on the ideas, while S&B score and score and score again with force of personality and arrangements that frequently pin you against the wall. The rampaging Spiers melodeon in particular is a brilliant foil to Boden's unorthodox vocals and vigorous Țddle playing.

They swoop from a different angle, loud, proud and dangerous to know their arrangement of Pete Bellamy's Courting Too Slow is utterly mesmerising and they tell the Copshawholme Fair story with a full-on attack that is nigh on irresistible. Benji Kirkpatrick adds to the țavour on guitar and bouzouki and the liberties they take with the tunes, notably Cuckoo's Nest - all bendy notes and tangential asides - suggests that one day they could turn this lot into a mind-blowing band. The instrumental interludes going on around Brown Adam are almost as dramatic as the song itself, leading us through a miasma of twists and turns and then settling back into an infectious groove. I love the sentimental old guff of Go And Leave Me too.

They are uncompromisingly committed to an English traditional style with all the usual reference points. Yet their music is also Țrmly of today and I'd happily play this to people who would normally pull out their own toenails rather than listen to folk songŠ and I'd lay money that they'll like it. The best duo since the DransȚelds? Very possibly. And certainly the tallest. - Colin Irwin, fRoots

"Daringly confronts the traditional way of doing things." - Mojo

Also by Spiers and Boden: Through and Through

The band's official bio:

John Spiers (aka Squeezy John!)

John Spiers (melodeon) and Jon Boden (fiddle) are an exciting young duo who play a lively mix of folk songs and tunes mainly from the English tradition. They hail from the musically famous "amber triangle" in East Oxford and can often be seen frequenting the local sessions. Since the release of their first album, Through & Through, in the Autumn of 2001 they have aroused much interest on the UK folk scene including a nomination for the BBC Radio 2 Horizon award 2002 for best newcomers, a runners up spot in the BBC Radio 3 World Music award and lots of very positive reviews in the folk-press.

The two J's first met up in 2000 at the famous sessions at the Elm Tree on Oxford's Cowley Road. They decided almost immediately that it would be a good idea to work together as both of their styles seemed to have the same high-energy approach to the music. Their first public performance was in the August of that year at the Mayflower Folk Club in Cambridge where John learnt to play in front of an audience.

Since then, John & Jon have played a number of folk clubs in the South East and have left audiences in no doubt that they have witnessed something a bit different!

John (26) started playing the melodeon while studying genetics at King's College, Cambridge. At first it was because of necessity, he played piano already and found that one was not freely available, the squeezebox was simply a way of not going mad! However, to his suprise, he found he could play it quite well and he seemed to know an astonishingly large repertoire of morris dance tunes which had gone in to his system while watching his dad dance as a child. Folk by osmosis!

After university, John honed his skills down at the Fir Tree sessions every Tuesday night. Because of the large number of particularly talented individuals at this session, he had to advance rapidly to keep up! He joined a local ceilidh band called "Fiddle & Squeeze" and started to gig around folk clubs with Ian Giles, singer with the band Magpie Lane. Working with Ian helped him to learn to work on stage, as did playing in a short lived band with Ewan MacPherson and Marguerite Harrington.

John has appeared on the Past Times recordings, The folk music of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the CD Five years of Folk at the Fir Tree.

As well as the duo with Jon Boden, Squeezy plays in a Ceilidh band with Jon Boden & Benji Kirkpatrick.

Jon Boden

"Norma and I saw this lad called Jon Boden playing at the Lewes folk club down in Sussex and we were completely blown away by him. This lad was wonderful" Martin Carthy, ADHOC magazine.

Jon Boden (24) is one of the most exciting singers to have come on the traditional music scene in the past 20 years. His voice is distinctive and powerful. When playing tune sets he is pure energy and a delight to watch.

Jon's main love of English folk song came from his regular visits to the Coalpits singing session while at Durham University. He was immediately struck by this bar where people could be dicussing the football one minute, and suddenly burst in to a haunting ballad or strong worker's song. This exposure to folk song in it's natural element was enough to start him off! However Jon was already and accomplished fiddler in both English and Irish styles, hence the development of his fiddle-singing technique which when seen live is mind-blowing.

His main influences are Peter Bellamy and Martin Carthy for singing and Eliza Carthy and Nancy Kerr for fiddle playing. Jon is also an occasional member of The Oxford Waits, plays in a ceilidh band with Benji Kirkpatrick and John Spiers, and he also plays solo gigs.

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