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Owl Light Trio – Sound Into Light, a review

Envelope yourself in Owl Light Trio's Sound Into Light, a vibrant blend of traditional tunes and innovative folk music recorded in an intimate, live setting.

The image shows an album cover for "Sound Into Light" by Owl Light Trio. The cover features a painting of an owl with soft, warm hues and a textured appearance, alongside bold, orange-colored text on the right, displaying the band's name and album title in a classic, clean font. The overall design suggests a blend of the traditional and the modern.
Release Date
1 May 2024
Owl Light Trio, Sound Into Light
Sound Into Light by Owl Light Trio captures the essence of a live performance with its intimate, festival-like vibe. Recorded over two days, the album features Jim Penny, Jane Griffiths, and Colin Fletcher blending traditional tunes with innovative playing. From lively hornpipes to meditative tracks, each song showcases their deep connection to folk traditions and musical exploration.

There is something wonderfully immediate about the new album by the Owl Light Trio. Recorded over just two days at Strawhouse Studio in North Oxfordshire, Sound Into Light has the feel of a live recording, complete with the warmth and charm that suggests.

Owl Light Trio consists of Jim Penny on concertina, Jane Griffiths on fiddle and viola, and Colin Fletcher on guitar. They have a clear affection for tunes from Ireland, the UK, and Brittany, with the Breton influence being particularly affecting. Between them, they have an impressive track record, having performed and recorded with many of contemporary folk’s most interesting voices, from Maddy Prior and Tim van Eyken to Nancy Kerr & James Fagan.

Even though it’s just six tracks long, Sound Into Light packs in a mass of ideas along with some fantastic playing. The first set is ‘If You Will Not Have Me, You May Let Me Go/Winder’s Hornpipe/Derby Hunt,’ and it starts with a huge smile on its face. Griffiths on fiddle and Penny’s anglo-concertina give this 3/2 hornpipe plenty of joy, then, as Fletcher’s guitar arrives, it is driven to a perfect festival-friendly pace. While their version may not have the massed fiddle madness that Bellowhead brought to their live recording, it’s still wonderful. ‘Winder’s Hornpipe’ keeps the pace high, the dynamics of the three slightly reminiscent of Leveret with violin and guitar providing the foot-tapping propulsion. With the Leveret influence in mind, it is perhaps not surprising that ‘Derby Hunt’ was on the latest album by Sweeney, Harbron, and Cutting. The Owl Light Trio version slows the pace after the hornpipes but it’s a fluid and fluent slip jig, Penny and Griffiths doing lovely things.

‘Gratitude in Two Blue Bowls’ speaks of contemplation and mindfulness, almost a folk version of Tibetan singing bowls. It is slowly meditative, calming, Fletcher’s electric guitar glistening with shoegaze waves as the violin sits, round and full, at the centre. There is something equally contemplative to ‘Peal/Five Pints of Doom.’ What starts with echo-y guitar and repeated concertina drone-like chords quickly morphs into a three-way conversation, called across rooftops. Each instrument sets off on its own phrase, slowly fashioning a self-contained, private world. Each repeats and circles, becoming surer of itself, until they start to overlap. It’s like listening to separate church bells ring across a city, realising that they have become one. After that ecstatic meeting, held together by the guitar, ‘Five Pints of Doom’ is more gentle. Presumably, the day-dream slowness reflects the aftermath wrought by Cornwall’s finest Amber Ale.

The Breton influence can be heard on ‘Laridé de Pontivy/Wild Hope in the Maple Grove/Roger’s,’ with the concertina to the fore. Once again, the feeling that the instruments are in conversation with one another is very strong, violin and concertina chatting happily as the guitar chips in with elegant flourishes. As the set expands, so the feeling changes, turning to the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops, Griffiths and Penny splashing concentric waves, Fletcher’s guitar flickering rainbow colors. By the time that ‘Roger’s Jig’ rolls around, heels are being kicked up, Griffiths adding layers of Breton jollity. The festival feeling takes over, there is exuberance, vitality, and, above all else, fun.

‘Caradoc of Tregardock’ pays homage to a lovely piece of the North Cornish coastline with Fletcher’s waterfall guitar and the violin catching a singular beauty. As all three come together, the golden glow of a gull-encircled coast is vividly drawn. The set ends with ‘Bob and Bernie,’ simply a wonderful dance tune driven by violin and concertina, the sound of a party thrown with love.

The final tune on Sound Into Light is another for dancing. At eight minutes long, ‘Idbury Hill’ is a Morris tune (also known as ‘London Pride’) and feels quite epic, really. It starts with a peal of May-You-Never, John Martyn-esque guitar – laid back and gently laconic. As the jaunty concertina comes in, you can hear the instruments breathe, violin quite gentle to start with, and then momentum builds. Finally, the fiddle just pings off, leaving the others looking heavenward, Penny’s concertina shouting after it. As these two fight for dominance, Fletcher’s Martyn moonlight shimmers at the day’s end. It is a glorious end to a lovely album.

Sound Into Light is the sound of a mid-afternoon set at your favorite folk festival. Beautifully played, full of tunes to dance to and brimming with charm.

Sound Into Light by Owl Light Trio is out on May 1st. It can be ordered from the trio’s Bandcamp page.