In Old Spanish, Arcelia means “treasure chest” which is a good way of describing the outstanding musicianship and variety of this album. Arcelia are a trio consisting of Gavin Alexander on guitar and vocals; Teresa Gallager on vocals; and Simon Foster on keys, cajon and vocals. They are supported, mostly, by Perry White on piano and Martin Elliott on bass. The first track, ‘Fallen,’ written by Gavin Alexander and Cat Bloomfield, with whom he has penned many songs, sets the tone perfectly for the collection. The implied depth of meaning “Fallen, fallen, but got up again” has a sustaining force, maintained by its harmonies.
As the lyrics say in ‘Turn Out The Light’ (also written by Gavin and Cat), “Slow burning inside, Keeping me /warm..” The promise of the album is maintained in a musically eloquent solo from Teresa. As an important but relevant aside, just listen to her voice, reading, as Esther, in the audio download of Bleak House!
So it is with all the songs here: They’re not just memorable but moving too. Prepare to be drawn into the story of “The Old Farrier.” Rather than simply dwell on the decline of old country crafts, Gavin concentrates on the farrier’s wife and her loving support for her husband as he grows old. This is realised in the words, “She said.” Gavin and Theresa in louder unison give their audience a sit up, listen, and think a moment. “She said I’ll be there right with you now/ In the shadow of first light.” Here is songwriting and singing of the very highest order.
One is aware of the care taken throughout; for instance with the writing of Track 11. Here is the story of Victorian poor relief in the village of Gressenhall in Norfolk. A young mother, recently widowed, with two little boys, is forced to seek help in the workhouse, where she is separated from them everyday. Her fears are captured in her words; “Don’t take my sons now/ They are young and all I have./ Please have mercy.” Simple lyrics can be very moving.
A measure of Arcelia’s standing in the world of music, is shown here in that they have been able to gather around them a recognised collection of well known and valued musicians. Richard Rozze, for instance, plays on three tracks. Notice his mandolin playing on “Far and Away.” Notice also James Shears’ bass on “My Wife.” How it plays with the background harmonies. A typical and outstanding track. Or “Heart” which gives a glimpse again of the range of Gavin’s full voice. He co-wrote the song with Perry White, who plays piano. “I remember the way you looked at me.” It is the quality of phrasing and arrangement that makes the track, and the album, stand out.
Music to come back to, again and again.