Sprezzatura is the second full length release from experienced purveyors of the Canterbury flame, The Kentish Spires, welcoming in Chris Egan on bass and James Hall making his professional recording debut on drums. As I understand it powerhouse vocalist Lucie V has now left the band and so it may also be their last outing in this format.
Which is a shame as this album, while nodding to its predecessor in its quirky mix of folk, Kentish history and jazz fusion is a more clearly constructed and focussed piece displaying great promise. While their first collection, The Last Harvest (2018, see review) was recorded over a period of months, this was done in 40 straight days recording and it works brilliantly in cutting out the padding. Anything which didn't work quickly was consigned to the bin, keeping the quality level high. Both halves of the release (sides in vinyl money) consist of a trilogy of pieces and a standalone track, making for two contrasting pieces. Side one is the folk tinged jazz which listeners of the first release will be familiar with while part two is the urbane, modern, witty version exploring the conundrums of modern relationships. Horsa From Beyond The Grave will delight those whose taste is more for 5th century history and who can tell a Jute from and Angle or Saxon. Here the focus is more personal and less tub thumping, making for an engaging tale. As ever Lucie V's folk tinged vocal powers these tales with conviction, although there is time for musical whimsy on Don't Shoot The Albatross.
On side two Lucie's voice is more modern, with an estuary tinge exploring three different relationships and on You Better Shut Your Mouth managing the rare trick of being able to explore an abusive relationship in an engaging way without diminishing the seriousness of the subject. The music on this second half is less obviously stylised, more original and all the better for it. This was always my favourite aspect of the band when they were more natural and unfettered by musical conventions. The final track The Long Goodbye, a part duet is a poignant, soaring piece where the band really comes together, showcasing Chris Egan's saxophone. It feels comfortable and as if the group had found a space where everyone could breathe.
If that was really the last track for The Kentish Spires, it wasn't a bad way to sign off. To me it sounds like unfinished business, but then fans always want more and one has to trust the musicians to know what's best for themselves. I can only thank them and wish them well in their future endeavours (and hope they may have some time for another outing, one day)
**** Andrew Cottrell
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