Brendan Foreman wrote this review.
Finality Jack is a trio of instrumentalists based in Northamptonshire, England and named after an obscure 19th century English politician, Lord John Russell. Consisting of Tim Perkins on violin and bouzouki, Richard Leigh on violin and kantele (a nordic form of the violin), and Becky Price on accordion and keyboards, they play an intriguing mixture of English- and French-influenced instrumental music with a smattering of Eastern European polka in there as well. These may not be typical traditional dance tunes, but in their quiet way they all feel as exuberant and full-of-life as the Greek morris dancers on the cover of the CD.
From the first strains of the opening track, “Hew the Rabbit,” it is very clear that Price’s confident accordion provides both the foundation and drive of Finality Jack’s music. Often used as a percussion instrument, it pushes the rest of Finality’s instruments forward with the confidence of a contradance piano. The violins of Perkins and Leigh are also particularly strident, more often than not playing countermelodies to each other. It’s also a real treat when they pull out the kantele and bouzouki. Over all, this is a trio packed with skill and imagination.
Although all of these tunes are original, many of them feel like modern meditations of traditional styles of music. The frenetic opening track “Hew the Rabbit,” “The Blind Venetian,” and the stately “Duntibour” all feature sounds taken from both French and English country dance traditions. “Pale Like Pernod” is a sweet-sounding air featuring Julian West on the cor anglais (english horn).
Others are completely original creations such as “Rock the Ostrich,” which sounds like a bouncy, gypsy-jazzed reel, and “New Man Pneumonia,” which continually twists its own melody around so that as soon as it starts sounding like a rag, it turns into a reel, then into more of a jazzy air.
The CD ends with the wistful “Lin-Lan-Lone,” a medley of plaintive waltzes and airs that highlight the sparkle of Richard Leigh’s kantele-playing.
The mellow, melodic nature of this music may fool the listener into not really paying attention to it but just letting it flow into the ears. But, unlike a great of contemporary instrumental music, each tune here stands up well to concentrated listening, opening up more and more upon each repeat. This is actually remarkably complicated music, almost experimental in its mixing of styles and various melodies. Would that each musical experiment was as nice on the ears as this one….