Dalla's new album, K5, opens as it means to go on: direct, rhythmic, full of dynamic, harmony and musicianship, writes Bert Biscoe.
Anthony Payne was a giant of a man who served his master, Sir Bevil Grenville, until the latter was killed in battle during The Civil War at the Battle of Stratton. Andy Davey's tune, Anthony Payne, introduces K5 and sets the band in its place – as a modern Cornish giant. How Dalla is not turning down world tours and nailing platinum albums to the garage door is a mystery. Perhaps it's because all its members (past and present) set great store by their values which expand their music to embrace family and place.
Since the last album the band has expanded with Kyt Le Nen Davey bringing a further dimension in terms of instrumentation and tonal colour, a role expanded further by Jen Dyer. The band has depth, confidence, virtuosity and creativity. Bec Appleby and Hilary Coleman have a unique harmonised vocal partnership which evokes Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, while Jen Dyer's voice extends this.
Hilary's increasingly sparse and effective deployment of clarinets lend a distinctive dimension to the sound (especially on The Old Town Inn), whilst Kyt Le Nen Davey's accordion explores the potential of the instrument, both in how it blends and contrasts and in how it can set moods.
The inventive percussive contribution of Bec Appleby drives the sound – you don't stand still with this music, but you do explore a broad and accomplished palette of style, colour and mode.
And then we come to the seminal role of Neil Davey, his musicianship is, as ever, masterful. It is his evolving use of the studio which excites and compels the ear and the listening mind. This is where Dalla is achieving the quality which must surely set it at the pinnacle of their genre.
The setting and drama of Chris Lethbridge's narrative ballad, Granite is the Hardest Stone, involves the interplay and tonal bonding of the voices, the growl of Jim Carey's bass drum and the storm-force lines of the bouzouki. The mastery of everything the studio has to offer is brought to bear – and makes K5 move its listener.
Technically crisp, fine musicianship, not a wasted or superfluous note, and brimming with imagination and feeling, surely this a band which should be firmly on the world stage. A wise woman once told me the simple truth that each song must find and know its own sentiment. Dalla's K5 is not just music, but truth and maturity.