ROCK SOCIETY MAGAZINE REVIEW
RnR Magazine review
BUILDING ON THE LAND
WOW Magazine *****
Kent-based Arcelia have been quietly building a discerning national following since their debut album, ‘Wrap Your Bones’ came out in 2014. There’s a solidity to their craft as songsmiths and singers, as each has honed their skills for years before finding themselves in a holy trinity of harmony in this band.
There is a maturity to Gavin Alexander’s lyrics which puts him in the same league as Eddi Reader and Roddy Frame as a songwriter – something which has been picked up by Squeeze’s Chris Difford, who has been somewhat of a mentor and tour buddy in recent years. There is an ease and simplicity to his words – a gentle observing and a keen knowingness – which wrap up hope, longing, melancholy and experience into balm for wearied souls.
Simon Foster’s life as a blues and soul singer is evident on ‘The Old Farrier’ – a folk-titled song which peels back into the intimate domestic life of an elderly couple, with all the passion of years of deep connection roaring out of Foster’s honeyed volcano of a voice. ‘Yellow Soup’, a pacey trip through night time walks and everyone they pass hangs similarly on his tone. He is a storyteller, and you believe him.
The smoky, late night vulnerability of ‘Into The Dark’ is a perfect showcase for Teresa Gallagher’s delicate voice. Vocal tone is a massive part of Arcelia’s draw. Musicality matters to them. The harmonies in the chorus evoke Crosby, Stills and Nash, as Perry White’s piano laps smoothly round them like water.
There’s so much beauty in this album. Such a range of ideas across the songs – heartbreak, missed opportunities, memories, progress, history – but all come pretty much back to the same thing: connection, intimacy, harmony. The things that really enrich life. These are songs to make you smile, and cry, and to make you reconsider and be thankful for the people around you. This album will enrich your life.
AMERICANA UK MAGAZINE 9/10 *****
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.
ARTREE MUSIC - BUILDING ON THE LAND
‘This is acoustic mood music of the highest order’
It’s not often I start reviews with a tag line – but, looking back at what I’d previously written about Arcelia the above still seemed completely relevant (and gave me a self appreciation moment at the same time!).
It was back in early 2013 that we first received the debut three track EP from the Kent based trio – full of optimism and excitement that a new act brings to the table, and to say we were blown away then was an understatement.
Fast forward 5 years, and after an excellent full album release in 2014 – ‘Wrap Your Bones’, the band are back with their second full length offering which provides the listener both the tried and tested soulful folk formula seen on their previous releases, alongside the odd curve-ball that shows a maturity and confidence of an act evidently very comfortable with their set-up and sound.
Arcelia have forged a reputation for their watertight harmonies and these are in abundance on this record. All three members of the band, Gavin Alexander, Teresa Gallagher and Simon Foster are so in tune with their voices as a unit it is borderline perfection. It is this lush soulful sound that for the most part cements the songs on this album. The vast majority gliding pleasantly along – well crafted songwriting backed by solid yet not overpowering accompaniment on guitar, piano and percussion in the main – and those voices sitting atop, each taking turns on lead vocal duty with the three part backing decorating the tracks where required.
Listen to the track ‘Fallen’ here
As I said though, there are signs on this record that the band are not resting on the tried and trusted formula – and new musical ideas have been introduced – most notably on the song Yellow Soup which embraces a slightly rockier feel – harder drum groove, chunkier chords – however of course the vocal work is as tight and together as in any other. Think of the moment Crosby, Stills and Nash added the raw power of Neil Young to their sound and this’ll give you an idea of the effect and impact this song has on the Building on the Land record – you’re not quite expecting it, but when you hear it a couple of times, it actually fits in really well. Clever.
Another standout is the poignant Far & Away. A song about loss from the point of view of a family having fled the nest. It’s subtle acoustic and slide guitar accompaniment perfect as a platform for the lyrics.
You need this record for relaxing, on a summers day while sitting in the garden – this record will chill you out. This band will chill you out. Acoustic mood music of the highest order it most definitely is, and worth your time should you choose to invest. - Phil Daniels
Fatea Magazine - WRAP YOUR BONES
Taking their name for 'treasure chest' in Spanish (for those of us who are non-speakers), the trio who make up Arcelia have been described as having soulful voices which go together better than the three Musketeers. Whilst trying to avoid any further tenuous French/Spanish analogies, Gavin Alexander, Teresa Gallagher and Simon Foster have created a relaxing and tranquil set of songs based around their shared vocals and low key but effective instrumental skills. The less is more mantra is fully in operation here. 'Wrap Your Bones' is a pleasant departure for all three members to take a break from their day jobs - in the case of Gavin and Simon, meaning ongoing commitments to The Flying Pickets while Teresa 's call is to provide voices for several TV characters and radio plays.
However, in their own right, they are gigging regularly and supporting the likes of Chris Difford whilst this album gives them a chance to set down some of their material for posterity. The overall feel and mood of the songs are laid back and calm yet with lyrics which speak of lost loves and longing are predominant. For those who like a label, there's an acoustic base to the songs which don't go too far down the road to be folk or pop or country and it would be unfair to label them as easy listening but there's an air of melancholy and singer songwriter-ness about them. Think Paul Simon, James Taylor and you're in the same ballpark.
Of the songs themselves, '45 Seconds' is a bright and attention grabbing opening track, Gavin Alexander's vocals setting the scene for what's to come. They haven't been afraid to serve up some quite stark arrangements - you'll hear on the very gentle 'Busking Birds' and 'Blossom', Simon's vocal placed simply against Gavin's picked guitar notes and 'Lovely Bones' is essentially a solo performance by Gavin and guitar. On the other side of the coin 'Another Song' has a much bigger arrangement and more of a band feel and 'Heaven' has a bluesy Winwood quality where Simon flexes his vocal muscles in an almost gospel like ending.
Glancing through the album credits, Gavin Alexander comes across as the main songwriter although a non-original bonus track appears in the form of Jake Bugg's 'Broken' co-written by Crispin Hunt and Jake Bugg, and it's actually a really enjoyable delivery and allows Teresa's voice to sign off the album in style. In addition to the three, there are various guests who provide additional instrumentation, most notably the cello and piano of Ben Trigg and Perry White, yet as a trio on 'Wrap Your Bones', Arcelia convey a deceptively simple and unassuming yet fulfilling soundtrack to the Summer of 2014.
Mike Ainscoe - FATEA
ARTREE FOLK & ROOTS MUSIC NEWS, REVIEWS & PROMOTIONS
Album Review: Arcelia – Wrap Your Bones
Sometimes you can stumble across an album that makes itself very difficult to verbalise. Arcelia’s debut album Wrap your Bones is exactly such an album as there is only so much justice that a review can do without getting the chance to hear it for yourself.
Since we first heard their incredible debut EP This Time we have been expecting great things from Arcelia and after what seemed like an eternity we were rewarded when those great things were brought to form. Wrap your Bones combines everything that we have come to love about Arcelia from their astounding live shows. It is a soft and tender album, music that’s able to whisk you away on a summer’s breeze, even in the middle of a bitter winter.
Their music is subtle, sometimes understated and charmingly minimalistic, combining predominantly their deft and soothing guitar medleys with the gentle beats of the cajon with the barest flicker of a cello on the occasional track. What makes them so incredibly special however are their phenomenal vocal skills which are frankly on the borderline of indescribable. All three members of the band carry with them a unique and thrilling set of vocals which they apply at every perfect point. Indeed Simon Foster has one of the most powerful, awe-inspiring vocals that we have ever heard but so too do Gavin Alexander and Teresa Gallagher. Separate, their voices are tender, tranquil and soulful but combined they tap into a rich musical vein creating harmonies that could make a songbird green with envy.
The harmonious styling’s of the trio are soothing and rousing at the same time they breathe a fresh breath of life into even the dullest of days. Songs such as 45 Seconds and Another Song are the kind of upbeat melodies that you could play over and over and still find that each and every chord puts another spring in your step. The album winds its way through a delicate selection of songs that range from sweet, bouncing melodies to more tranquil and sombre ballads such as Save your Soul, a stunning and strangely uplifting song.
Arcelia drew a line with their debut EP which they have far surpassed with their beautiful, compassionate and pure album. It’s a perfectly selected collection of songs that can give you a boost or bring a tear to your eye in equal measure. It is a perfect blend of melancholy and magic mixed with a dash of soul. ..... Joe Knipe
WHISPERIN & hOLLERIN
Arcelia means treasure chest in old Spanish. That's exactly what fans of the folk and soul genre will find in this new album 'Wrap Your Bones'.
Gavin Alexander, Teresa Gallagher and Simon Foster form the musical trio from East Kent, and together they blend their vocal harmonies to create moments of melodic genius, apparant first in second tune 'Long Man' where the lead howls 'I can't hide'.
There's a 'pass the microphone round' feeling to this collection of songs which allows each of the trio to shine when they're brought to the forefront, and it's nice to see they're all willing to let one another take the lead.
This paints a very unique picture to most albums that come from groups, which focus on one singer and their backup vocalists or 'band'. There are even moments here where some of the group aren't present on one or two tracks. It's a different approach and turns out to work very much in their favour.
Feeling like a very honest record created out of a passion for music rather than just for the sake of making a quick buck, listeners will be pleased to be met at the closing of each track with a fresh sound on the next.
Charming ballads, noteably 'Busking Birds' manage to be relaxing and soothing whilst packing a punch and making an impact at the same time.
It's a clever little collection that has the ability to make a fan out of you within just a few moments."
reflective Sunday afternoon. Christopher Nosnibor WHISPERIN&HOLLERIN
FOLKWORDS - ALBUM of the MONTH
WRAP YOUR BONES - Arcelia - lushness and understated opulence
Arcelia’s combination of voices creates a subtle, soulful folk-tinted sound filled with a richness and intensity you can almost feel. They deliver songs with a lushness and an understated opulence that you’ll want to experience. On first-listen their debut album ‘Wrap Your Bones' has a nonchalant feel that evokes a faintly remembered awareness. The warmth of the vocals, softly mixed instrumentation, expressive lyrics and relaxed informality combine to give this album an intimate expression that’s easy to absorb. Even if you haven’t heard this before it feels as though you have – it’s that personal.
From the lead track, ‘45 Seconds', a warm opening adorned with instrumental accents, you’re into the lyrical vocal expanse of ‘Long Man’ or soft intensity of ‘Cupid’ – this is soothing chill-out music. The tranquillity continues through the soporific simplicity of ‘Busking Birds’, Teresa’s evocative vocals on ‘She’s Not Lost’ and the understated sorrow of‘Blossom’. There’s something of a mood-change with ‘Another Song’, which definitely falls into the ‘surely I’ve heard this before’ bracket but that’s not criticism, it’s simply a reflection of the special touch and character of this album.
Arcelia are Gavin Alexander (vocals, guitar, ukelele) Teresa Gallagher (vocals, percussion) and Simon Foster (vocals, cajon) with Jeff Alexander (banjo, dobro) James Dean (electric guitar) Phil Mulford (double bass) James Shears (bass, percussion) Ben Trigg (cello) and Perry White (piano).
Arcelia – Wrap Your Bones – Album Review - SOUND OF SUMMER
I confess that I am something of an odd-ball where music is concerned. My oldest friend will tell you that even as a young man I would go into record stores and come out with tapes, CD’s or records often of bands I had never heard of. This is a trait I have maintained through my life and is the primary reason that I love festivals so much. I always come away with new favourite bands.
I have a very eclectic musical taste and love to explore new music. I do have a habit of spending ages listening to new albums over and over again, often trying to put my finger on what the music reminds me of. What has all of this got to do with reviewing Arcadia’s album though? Well hopefully that will become clear.
Arcelia got together in 2012 and judging by the number of gigs the play in and around Kent I guess they are based in that area. The core trio of Arcelia is Gavin Alexander, Teresa Gallagher & Simon Foster, though the trio is supplemented by a number of musicians on the album.
As is my wont I like to put new music onto my iPod so that i can give it my undivided attention and that’s exactly what I did with Arcelia’s debut album, Wrap Your Bones.
The first thing I would say about the album is that attempts to draw a comparison with another artist is a frustrating and ultimately fruitless task. The reason for this becomes apparent when you listen to the album in its entirety. I think what shines through is a sense of uniqueness, probably fuelled by the fact that all three of the trio take the lead vocal on various tracks.
When Gavin takes the lead in the early tracks I hear echoes of Paul Simon. When Teresa’s first lead comes in on third track Petal I was reminded of Eddi Reader. It was no surprise to discover later that Arcelia had worked with Eddi’s erstwhile Fairground Attraction partner Mark Nevin. When Simon takes lead vocal I thought there were echoes of James Taylor and in a couple of the closing tracks I drew comparisons with Soul legend Sam Cook.
I think by now that you will have realised that this is an album that refuses to be pigeon-holed and it is all the better for that. Clearly Arcelia draw from a number of different wells, the range of influence is broad indeed. The sense of a broad church is reinforced by the variety of instruments that dip in and out of the album.
The opening track 45 seconds features what I thought was a pedal steel guitar but I later learned that this was in fact a dobro resonator played with a slide. On Track 4 Cupid there is a duel between a double bass and cello to run the bass line. The result is simply gorgeous.
As a piece this album is beautiful, the songs are beautifully written, the vocals are quite lovely and the three part harmonies wash over you like a gentle caress. The songs progress from folk style stories underpinned by finger style guitar to soul standards and as a piece it is interesting engaging and enjoyable. This is an album that washes over you like a warm summer breeze, it draws you in and relaxes you and repeated listens bring endless rewards. It gives variety, quirky instrumentation, beautiful vocals and delightful lyrics and not a duff track. It is soulful, subtle, rich and rewarding. A delight from the first note to the last.
If like me you like to categorise your music, don’t! Pop it into your CD player, sit back relax and let the album take you on a musical journey. Trust me, it is worth the ride. ............ The Sound of Summer