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Peter Knight's Gigspanner Big Band - Live (Self Release)
I have to confess right from the start that Peter Knight's violin work whilst in his former band Steeleye Span somehow passed me by. Perhaps I was just distracted by the band's stripy tank tops and flowery shirts or Maddy Prior's exhausting cavorting, or perhaps - and more than likely I hasten to add - it was just me being utterly inattentive, but whichever way it was, I clearly missed it. The first time I noticed, I noticed in a sudden head rush that had me reaching for the hand rail. It was a moment of clarity, almost an epiphany, when I first saw Peter Knight's Gigspanner on stage, curiously enough at a Butlins holiday camp. Stranger things have happened, but possibly not as noteworthy as that particular moment. I had the mosh pit to myself, seated on the floor with my eyes closed as this beautiful music washed over me, courtesy of Peter on violin, Roger Flack on guitar and Vincent Salzfas on percussion.
Three studio albums and countless shows down the line, the trio are still performing albeit with a new percussionist (Sacha Trochet), and the deed of capturing their newly formed 'Big Band' live was not only an obligatory requirement but something of an essential necessity. Teaming up with the hugely popular duo Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin (now Edgelarks), creates a winning formula, with Henry's distinctive Dobro dovetailing with Flack's acoustic guitar, notably on the album opener The Butterfly. Add Hannah Martin's unmistakable voice to proceedings and we're onto something special before the end of Silbery Hill, the second song in. The shimmering Eastern flavoured Last Broadcast is a highlight, which features Phillip Henry's Chatturangui (Indian Classical Slide Guitar), beautifully complemented by Peter Knight's flittering fiddle and Hannah Martin's alluring vocal.
This is an album best served with the lights down and the volume turned up to match that of a live performance. With no visual distractions, save for the pretty sleeve, put together incidentally by Tim Mars and Kate Stretton with Deborah Knight's photography, the 'closed eyes' routine works best. One of those rare occasions that a live album works really well.