It must be great being in Leveret. You know, to be so instinctively brilliant that you don’t have to do all that tiresome planning and arranging… you just turn up, sit in a little semi-circle, give each other a knowing nod and off you go… just play. And play in the full knowledge that the blokes sitting next to you will, with nary a glance, coax and cajole you to encourage the music forward in ever more natural and beauteous paths and patterns.
Somebody extraordinarily clever – probably Chris Wood or Jim Moray – said that what makes Leveret so unequivocally wonderful is that they listen. To each other. And they react to what they hear from their mates. Sounds ridiculous, but seemingly few bands do that. Maybe few bands have the ability or perhaps the blind confidence and unquestioning faith in one another to do that.
For the uninitiated, Leveret are Sam Sweeney on fiddle, Andy Cutting on melodeon and Rob Harbron on concertina; and this is their fourth album of tunes in the fifth year since they first broke bread together. Last time out they delivered an album, Inventions, exclusively of their own compositions. This time they’ve gone the other way, with an all-traditional collection of ancient tunes gleaned from dusty manuscripts and ancient tune books. There some Playford Dancing Master tunes; there’s one – The Wounded Huzzar – from the writing of John Clare; the splendid Hessian Camp was originally to be found in something deliciously titled 24 Country Dances For The Year 1758; and there’s an especially jaunty effort called Drunken Barnaby from James Winder.
You can almost touch the sense of history in these tunes and the glistening wonder in the eyes of Messieurs Sweeney, Cutting and Harbron as, with great respect and loving care, they remove them from their silent exile and breathe new life into them with the guile and freshness that only master musicians can. No grandstanding here. No racing for the finishing post. No big climaxes. No duelling competition between them. They just play. And they play for the service of a collection of unerringly gorgeous tunes; and for the service of one another. It is more than enough.