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Devon Sproule

DEVON SPROULE Live In London Tin Angel Records TAR 018

A way of releasing a ‘Best Of Devon Sproule’ set quite early in her career. The live album repris- es most of her best songs, Julie, the classic Ain’t That The Way, Old Virginia Block and so on accompanied by a band featuring her hus- band Paul Curreri on lead guitar and vocals, supported by BJ Cole on pedal steel and assorted UK musicians giving a good texture to the songs. One that really shines in this company is Come Comet Or Dove performed as a duet with Coventry singer Lucy Anne Sale. There are a few new songs to tempt if the attraction of Sproule’s first live set is not enough. A real gem is One Eye Open, written by an associate of Sproule’s, Megan Huddle- stone, taking an oft-used country theme, probably dating back to Flatt and Scruggs in 1955, a song that was banned at the time. What the censors then would have made of the black humour here is not open to doubt. Also, listening right through the CD gets you to one of these hidden tracks, in this case a gem of a duet by Sproule and Curreri on I Still Miss Someone, that just happens to be my personal favourite Johnny Cash song.

The DVD is the sort that can only be given away with a CD. Shots of the band on tour with incidents that may have been amusing to the participants at the time, and a few not wonderfully shot live numbers. Better heard than seen in this case, but the package is a very welcome addition to the Sproule catalogue. – distributed in the UK by Shellshock.

John Atkins


The Road To Damascus Real World CDRW176 Al Bidayeh Real World RWEP 15

Syriana is a new pro- ject conceived in Lon- don by Nick ‘Count Dubulah’ Page (for- merly of Transglobal

Underground and more recently the excel- lent Dub Colossus), Syrian qanun (dulcimer) player Abdullah Chhadeh and double bass- man Bernard O’Neill, aiming to mix the sounds of Damascus with a bit of spy movie twang. On paper, this may look like tacky ori- entalism, but these recordings are delivered with obvious conviction and a high degree of musicality. Produced at Real World and Music Box international in Syria, their debut album has the stately swell of the Pan Arabic Strings Of Damascus, Dubulah’s surfy guitar sound and Chhadeh’s intricate qanun plucking. Best known for his work with Natacha Atlas and his own band Nara, Chhadeh has never sounded better (the collaborative set-up appears to suit him). A couple of tracks also benefit from a guest appearance by Syrian vocalist Lubana Al Quntar, whose rich warm tones complement Syriana’s filmic sound- scapes rather nicely.

The Al Bidayeh EP was released a little before the full album as a taster and features three tracks from it, plus an exclusive medley which sandwiches the theme to 1960s ghost tec TV show Randall & Hopkirk Deceased between a couple of low key original compositions.

What we have here is the beginnings of an intriguing new project, but also the end, in this form at least, as Chhadeh has since left the group and other musicians have been

drafted in. By all accounts this new line-up’s appearance at this year’s Womad caused quite a stir and at the time of writing, I’m looking forward to witnessing their London debut in a few days’ time. – distributor: Proper. Jamie Renton

ANDY IRVINE Abocurragh own label AK-3

Andy Irvine, the ulti- mate communicator and master crafts- man, has assembled several of his influen-

tial old compadres to add texture and guile on this quiet but characteristically involving collection. Donal Lunny is all over it as pro- ducer and rhythmic rudder, while another former Planxty colleague Liam O’Flynn con- tributes peerless uilleann pipes to the strik- ing narrative of the two opening tracks, Three Huntsmen and Willy Of Winsbury. Accordeon maestro Máirtin O’Connor chips in, as does Nikola Parov, who’s worked with Irvine in Mozaik and adds kaval and nyckel- harpa to a terrific version of The Demon Lover while another Mozaik colleague, Dutchman Rens Van Der Zalm, joins Bruce Molsky playing fiddle on the dextrous James Magee. American harmonica virtu- oso Rick Epping ploughs in to dashing effect on The Girl From Cushendun/ The Love Of My Life; and Annbjørg Lien pro- vides the mournful hardanger fiddle that underlines the melancholy in George Papavgeris’s Emptyhanded, a song about Australian convicts that resonates strongly in a modern era of hardship.

Photo: Judith Burrows

Photo: Judith Burrows

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