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Wall, telling its story through its people and landscape past and present. The resultant performance (on day six), recorded in front of an audience, is enshrined on this CD in all its spontaneous glory. While its basic methodol- ogy may recall the recent Darwin Project, All Along The Wall is less a series of songs and more of a mixed-media (song and poetry) col- laboration. Yet what could easily have been a bitty and inconsistent melange of diverse ele- ments is transformed by some ancient alche- my into an intriguing kaleidoscopic proces- sional across the expanses of time, during which the listener can experience the Wall from the perspectives of such characters as a Shepherd Who’s Lost His Sheep (Julie’s pow- erful take on the foot-and-mouth crisis), the daughter of a Roman soldier (Ruth’s poignant epistle Dear Friend), a North African legion- naire (Boo’s End Of The World) and a philo- sophical rambler (Boo’s ruminative finale Shore To Shore), or through the captivating retelling of local legends such as Bowness Bells, Haltwhistle Women and Lizzie Batey.

Other special moments include the archaeology-themed pairing of Rory’s poem The Age Of Wind And Stone with Julie’s Albion-like Bridge Over Time, the stirring Rock Of Gelt (co-written by Ruth and Julie) and Rory’s delightful country-style waltzer telling of a soldier’s love for his Galloway Girl. Elvis’s awesome, declamatory brilliance turns out to complement Kate’s sensitivity and com- parable linguistic precision, while these artis- tic traits are mirrored in the keenly realised songwriting. By turns highly emotive, wistful- ly pensive and deliciously witty, All Along The Wall really delivers on its ambitious concept, without any sense of overreaching, and man- ages to be both enjoyably informative and musically and poetically satisfying. – distributor: Proper. David Kidman CHALKTOWN

You Never See The One Ramshackle Records RAMCD01

Chalktown are, Michael Davidson, Paul Scour- field, Dave Blackmore and Rob Gifford. They collectively sport a range of instruments including melodeon, clarinet, various guitars and percussion. Their business is dance tunes.

Of the 13 sets on this album only two are traditional, the rest being new compositions mainly by Messrs. Blackmore and Davidson. Now this is where it gets interesting. Instead of sounding like one of the current flurry of the Scandifrancavian tunes redolent with off- beat stabs and quirky timings so beloved of a certain sector of the folk scene, this album actually does sound surprisingly traditional. There is a nod in the direction of jazz in some tracks but it is only a nod, respectful too. The use of clarinet in English music is always inter- esting and can often point the ear in a more continental direction as in the case of Hekety’s Jo Veal’s playing but here Blackmore treads a more mainstream English path.

All tracks are full of interest for the ear and more than enough encouragement for the feet. Midwinter Waltz stands out as one of the most minimal of dance tunes, not that it isn’t effective while Groove Tune, despite its name and uptempo rocky sounding intro, is still acceptably showing its roots. Of the other tracks I would pick out Seabird/ Bounty as being particularly effective, again underly- ing the roots of these compositions.

Over all this is a solid showing by four very competent musicians. Paul Scourfield’s melodeon playing is crisp and punchy, the gui- tar work by Michael Davidson is cleverly understated yet insistently present, whilst per- cussion does not dominate thanks to Rob Gif- ford’s light but deft touch. The star feature though is Dave Blackmore’s clarinet and bass

clarinet playing which more than any other feature, define the overall character of this band. The composition, arrangements and performance are all of a high order. Whether it will become a best-seller is a little more doubtful. As a musician myself, I have to con- fess that there isn’t anything here that makes me want to ‘learn that tune’ and I find myself asking at what audience is this album aimed? Paul Davenport


Some Strange Country Signature Sounds SIG 2029

From Boston, this is Cooked Still’s fourth, and probably, best recording to date as they con- tinue to seamlessly blend old and new songs into their refreshing instrumental and ambi- tiously arranged take on acoustic music. They have an excellent singer in Aoife O’Donovan and a quite unique instrumental approach with cello and string bass giving a strong bot- tom end to their music with some inspired banjo playing as the main decoration.

Attention is grabbed from the opening Sometimes In This Country, fabulous singing from Donovan with some superb instrumen- tal passages, banjo, fiddle, fiddle/ cello and cello on its own all get a say. They turn a tra- ditional song into something new and fresh, retaining still a great respect for the tradi- tion. Golden Vanity and I’m Troubled get sim- ilar inspired treatment as do a number of other traditional songs, but joined by a hand- ful of originals. Distressed is an all too short original that shows off the breathy side of O’Donovan’s singing, whilst one of her own songs Half Of What We know is another gem that sits so well alongside the traditional songs. The recording ends with one from the unlikely old-time traditional writing pair Jag- ger and Richards, You Got The Silver. They may have, but for me Crooked Still get the gold with this fresh and welcome approach. – distributed by Proper in the UK;

John Atkins

TOMMY MCCARTHY Round Top Wagon own label ITCD 001

From an Irish travelling family, Tommy McCarthy’s gently intoxicating voice made a big impact at this year’s Sidmouth Folk Week with the warmth of his performances and the richness of his stories. This debut album should advance his reputation no end, under- lining a rarefied talent connected to a deep and proud, but dying song tradition.


Instigated and produced by Ron Kavana, this album includes many songs that have been in his family for generations, opening with Down That Road, sung in exactly the same lilting unaccompanied style he’d origi- nally learned it from his grandfather. There are plenty more old family songs that have been with him since birth and which he sings with the same tenderness and an intricate vocal technique that caresses the lyrics as the tales unfold. His performance of A Cushla particularly is mighty.

Yet this is not merely a heritage album. McCarthy is also a songwriter, contributing a couple of songs which reflect the spirit of the music he was raised on and evidently remains so close to his heart, including There Was A Time set to a Gaelic air; and Felix And Johnny Doran, a lovely tribute to the leg- endary piping brothers, to whom he is relat- ed and which explodes beautifully into a pipe reel at the end.

There’s a certain bawdiness, too, in

tracks like No Balls At All, while Kavana adds further voices and instrumentation to give the album a broader context and appeal. That may jar in some quarters with people who cherish McCarthy’s unique vocal style so much they will see the additions as an unnec- essary compromise and dilution. But from whatever standpoint you take, the man’s formidable spirit and an unusually intimate style forged from generations of travellers shines brightly through it.

Colin Irwin


Three Wise Men Kirkelig Kulturverksted FXCD 355

If this serene, non-kitsch album were playing in our shops, Christmas would be a much more tolerable, peaceful time. The misty tone of Norwegian Mathias Eick’s trumpet and his limpid piano, vibes and double bass lead and underpin the sensuous weaving of Ertan Tekin’s Turkish duduk and Pasha Hanjani’s Ira- nian ney in re-evaluating arrangements of the shapely tunes of Christmas songs, carols and hymns from Scandinavia, Britain, France, Germany, Sicily and Palestine.

The trumpet, ney and duduk were recorded in the Bulgarian Church of Stephan in Istanbul; as producer Erik Hillestad’s notes point out, travel to Bethlehem isn’t really possible for Iranians, Christian or not, but they can go to Istanbul “where East meets West, South meets North, and the past meets the present”.

Andrew Cronshaw

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