“A near perfect piece of music…the stunning ‘The Yeoman’s Son'”
BBC Radio Sheffield
“lovely, diverse selection of songs and some great singing”
Genevieve Tudor BBC Radio
The bright young folk review
Bright Season are a talented and instrumentally diverse trio comprising Michael J Tinker (vocals, guitar), Ella Sprung (vocals, fiddle and nyckelharpa) and Simon Dumpleton (vocals, accordion, piano). Their aim on this album was to showcase the variety of material they perform, and they have certainly achieved that.
In fact, the choice of material couldn’t be more diverse – from the stark simplicity of the Sacred Harp hymn Africa, to Strange Fruit, a song from the 1930s, covering the uncomfortable subject of the lynching of African Americans, and famously sung by Billie Holliday.
There are lighter moments too – My Mother Taught Me How to Waltz is charming, with the instrumental passages on accordion giving the song a fairground feel.
As the group all sing as well as play, Bright Season are able to achieve a wide variety of sounds. This results in some lovely harmony singing on Shendandoah for example.
Michael J Tinker is a gifted composer, and his excellent tune Arrival was written to mark the birth of his third child. Two of the traditional songs on the album, Wild Colonial Boy, and Bonny Boy (a variant of The Trees They Do Grow High) are also set to his tunes.
The album ends with Yeoman’s Son, a WWI poem by Cicely Fox Smith, written in the tradition of the night visiting song. The simple piano accompaniment and the close harmony vocals are beautifully done, with the haunting sound of the nyckelharpa solo adding to the poignancy. An exciting debut for a talented trio. Shelley Rainey
“From the off this self-titled release draws listeners in as the delicate harmonies of ‘Africa’ swoop across the record. ‘My Mother Taught Me How To Waltz’ beautifully juxtaposes contemporary themes through lyrics with traditional instrumentation. ‘Shotgun’ houses some deft fiddle work and surmises the folk feel of the album as the warm tones cocoon the listener. ‘Arrival’ is named for Tinker’s third child and rises like the sun on a summer’s morning. ‘The Yeoman’s Son’ closes the album and is a song steeped in tragedy. An assured listen full of warmth.”
“Whilst Bright Season may be a new name, the constituent parts, Michael J Tinker, Ella Sprung and Simon Dumpleton have appeared in a number of other acts as both featured artists and sidesmen where they have fine tuned their playing and singing, harmony and solos which ensures that as a whole they really understand working ideas and arrangements.
Their self titled debut contains nine tracks, both self penned and traditional, that shows a trio that is more than capable of getting the best out of what they choose to do. Some of the songs are inspired by dance rhythms others have more of a story tradition.
The vocal mix with in the band gives them a massive flexibility not only in the choice of songs, but how those songs are presented. A good example is “My Mother Taught Me How To Waltz”, which though written from a male perspective features Ella Sprung as the lead vocalist, giving the song a different dynamic and a more natural feel than it would have had Bright Season chosen to instead switch the genders within the song.
The instrumentation on the album is pretty exceptional, simple and bright where it needs to be, but not afraid to be more complicated when the need arises. It helps burn the textures into the album as assuredly as a slower exposure burns the colours into a picture.
Call me ungrateful, but at around the thirty three minute mark “Bright Season” feels a little on the short side, granted there are albums that can make thirty three minutes feel like a life time you are never going to have back, this is definitely not one of them. As the notes of “The Yeoman’s Son” fade away you realise that that’s it, there’s not going to be any more and you can’t scream for an encore and somehow that doesn’t seem fair, but arguably that does mean that the repeat button becomes your friend.”
Neil King, FATEA
The album takes you through the songs and tunes the trio have been performing over the past year, from the Shape-note hymn ‘Africa’ and a reworking of the traditional ‘Wild Colonial Boy’ to instrumentals ‘Arrival’ and ‘Shotgun’.
Bright Season formed in 2013 bringing together the talents of Michael J Tinker, fiddle-player Ella Sprung and accordionist Simon Dumpleton. Together they deliver traditional and self-penned songs and tunes, displaying their own individual gifts and combining to deliver stunning arrangements and harmonies. They draw on influences from all over the world, especially European folk, brought to the fore by Ella’s Nyckelharpa.
“For this album we wanted to show the wide variety of what we do” says guitarist, Michael J Tinker. “We love singing harmonies and telling stories and I think these are reflected in songs like Africa, The Wild Colonial Boy, and Shenandoah. We also like reworking traditional songs and giving them new tunes. And we love playing tunes! We wanted to give a taste of all of these passions and loves.”
As well as these traditional songs the band also play Robb Johnson’s lesser known ballad ‘My Mother Taught Me How To Waltz’ and piper Andy May’s polska ‘Shotgun’. Perhaps a surprise on the album is the eerie 1930’s ‘Strange Fruit’ by Abel Meeropol where the trio take advantage of being in the studio to create an atmosphere fitting for the heavy lyrics. The final track ‘The Yeoman’s Son’ also takes a different turn with Simon Dumpleton using the piano as Bright Season perform their take on the First World War poem of the same name by Cicely Fox Smith.
Perhaps the best thing about the album is that they recorded the songs as they would perform them. You get a real sense of what this band is about.
More about the members of Bright Season
Michael J Tinker has performed and recorded with Damien O’Kane (Kate Rusby band) and Katriona Gilmore and is currently working on a collaborative project with Bella Hardy, Josienne Clarke, The Young’uns, Tom Oakes, Ian Stephenson and Gilmore&Roberts. In addition he has supported Bellowhead, Lucy Ward, Sam Carter, Maz O’Connor and many more.
Ella Sprung is a fiddle player, singer and dancer. She specialises in French, Breton, and Scandinavian folk music, and performs with European folk dance band Trip the Light and folk groups Gallivant and Jack’s Rake. In addition to playing the fiddle she also plays the Swedish Nyckelharpa.
Simon is a multi-instrumentalist who has performed with numerous people including Kirsty Bromley and in the ceilidh band Trinculo. He has recently produced recordings for Jess and Richard Arrowsmith, Hekety, Outre Manche and BBC Folk Award nominees, the Melrose Quartet.
Video of the trio can be found at