Swan-Upmanship

by The Old Swan Band

Old Swan have been influencing English country dance music for 30 years. This is their first new recording for 21 years. So here it is; still unbeatable. Driving fiddles with a full raunchy brass section and rhythm from drums and keyboard. This band is still unique and still at the cutting edge.



The key is they dont sound like they're thinking about it. Someones stuck a load of instruments in their hands and theyre instantly bounding away, sounding like theyll carry on playing til they drop, clearly hopelessly, irretrievably in love with the music. And thats an irresistibly infectious quality. John Adams, Paul Burgess, the Fraser sisters, Neil Gledhill, Martin Brinsford, Flos Headford, Heather Horsley ?theyre old hands at this. They dont look right, they dont look left, they just play and theyve gathered some killer tunes to do it with: Wenlock Edge, Freedom Of Ireland, Flowers Of Edinburgh, General Ward... wondrous, intoxicating sounds all. The formidable frontline of fiddles is specially seductive and this really is English dance music at its most invigorating. Incredibly its 21 years since their last new studio album? thats some baby theyve been storing up there.

1 The Green-Clad Hills/Jimmy Garson’s March 

Jimmy Garson was an Orcadian musician recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1955. One of the tunes he played was an untitled march tune, which Peter Kennedy told Paul Burgess he decided to call “King William’s March”, just because he felt it should have a title. We don’t subscribe to any extra-musical association this tune may have, so prefer to call it “Jimmy Garson’s March” as it’s a fine melody! 

The Green Clad Hills comes from Richard Valentine – we can’t remember where he got it, but we’ll ask him next time we see him! 


2 Jack Robinson/William Irwins No. 3/The Tipputs 

There was a comic song “Jack Robinson” being sung on the London stage in the 1820’s - whether there is any connection is not known. We got the tune from the much missed Mel Dean. 
William Irwin’s No. 3 is from a MS tunebook compiled by William Irwin of Wigtown, Cumberland, in the 1840s or ‘50s - we learned it from Cock and Bull Band. 
The Tipputs Inn at Tiltups End, Horsley (originally the Black Horse) gives it’s name to the last tune, written by Paul & Jane Burgess 


3 Steamboat Hornpipe/Gloucester Hornpipe 

Steamboat is a popular English tune, but it, like so many, has traveled and can be found in Kerr’s Merry Melodies. Our version was learned from the playing of the Yorkshire ironstone worker George Tremain, who was the melodeon player for the North Skelton Sword Dancers. 
Stephen Baldwin had a habit of changing around the names of the tunes he played – “it’s difficult remembering all them names”. Some collectors also imposed there own ideas on what the tunes were called. This one was called “Gloucester Hornpipe” on one of the sessions and “Swansea Hornpipe” on one of the others – it’s also known as “The Man From Newry”, under which title it appears in O’Neill’s Music Of Ireland. (The “Gloucester Hornpipe” we recorded on Gamesters, Pickpockets & Harlots which was re-issued on “Still Swanning After All These Years”, is a different tune which Cecil Sharp recorded from Stephen Baldwin’s father, Charles). 


4 False Start 


5 General Ward/The Day Room 

Both written by Paul when he was in hospital! 

6 Winster Gallop/Four-Hand Reel/Dark Girl Dressed In Blue 

This set of tunes was included on the band’s first album ‘No Reels’ in 1977 and Dave Hunt adapted a dance for it, which we now know as “The Old Swan Gallop”. It’s changed a bit since then and shows the way the band has developed. 
“Winster Gallop” is one of the traditional Morris tunes from Winster in Derbyshire, which was noted down by Cecil Sharp in his famous meeting with the team in 1908. The “Four-Hand Reel” with its odd number of bars in the A-music, was a tune played by Herbert Smith in 1952 to Peter Kennedy. Smith was a sexton from Blakeney in Norfolk. 
“The Dark Girl Dressed In Blue” Decca F11140 coupled with “Growing Old” in 1959 by Stanley Holloway. Jack Warner (more famous as Dixon of Dock Green) was said to have used it as his theme song when he worked on the Music Halls, but, in fact, it’s much older than that, with broadside versions having been issued around 1865. It’s a humorous song where the chap (often up for the Great Exhibition) meets the Dark Girl, who asks him to get her change for her five-pound note. Of course, the note is forged, the girl disappears and he has to explain himself to “the large man dressed in blue”. It was popular as a tune especially in England and Ireland, where the great fiddler Johnny Doherty had a fine version. 


7 Church Street/ Redwing / St. Marys 

Ah - a quintessential set of English tunes. Well, actually not. The first and last tunes were originally recorded as “Memories of Ballymote” and “Gurkin Cross” by Paddy Killoran’s Irish Orchestra in New York in 1937. Killoran was a good, rough-toned country fiddler who ran a bar in the Bronx and who played with Michael Coleman. His life was cut short at a very early age when he perished in a New York ferry disaster. We originally got the tunes from an inspirational group led by a Canadian hammer-dulcimer player called Bill Spence & Fennig’s Allstars and only found out later, that he had them from the Chieftains. 
“Redwing” was written in 1907 by Kerry Mills, a prolific American popular composer of songs and dance tunes, who also brought us “Whistling Rufus”. 


8 Flowers Of Edinburgh/Soldier’s Joy/Morpeth Rant 

The first known appearance in print of one of the most popular of all tunes, the Flowers Of Edinburgh, was originally published in 1742 as “My Love’s Bonny When She Smiles On Me”. The Scottish fiddler Neil Gow claimed that the “Flowers Of Edinburgh” were the city’s magistrates. A likely story. It is popular all over Britain, Ireland and the US. The slower version is from the Cotswolds, and was collected by Cecil Sharp from Harry Taylor, mainstay of the Longborough and Lower Swell Morris sides in Gloucestershire. 

Soldiers Joy (also known as King’s Head) is a universal tune, appearing on both sides of the Atlantic in major, minor and multi-mode versions, with and without words and with extensive variations available even within the same band. Paul Roberts sings a complete song which starts with the following verse which suggests a possible meaning of the name. 

25 cents for the morphine 

15 cents for the beer 

25 cents for the morphine 

...and Soldier’s Joy is here! 


“Morpeth Rant” (also known as “Woods Hornpipe”) has been credited to the pen of the 18th-Century Northumberland musician William Shields. Since when it has spread all over, with versions recorded from William Hocken (Boscastle) and Stephen Baldwin (Forest Of Dean). It was listed in William Vickers tunebook, dated 1770 (now in Gosforth Record Office), but the notation is missing. Vickers could well have been an Excise Officer living in Newcastle and his huge collection of tunes is prefaced with the poem: 
Musicks a Crotchet the Sober thinks it Vain 
The Fiddles a Wooding Projection 
Tunes are But Flights of a Whimsical Brain 
Which the Bottle Brings Best to Parfection 
Musisians are half witted mery and madd 
And Those are the same that admire Them 
Theyr Fools if they Play unless their Well Paid 
And The Others are Blockheads to Hire them 


9 Wenlock Edge/Summer Waltz 

We had “Wenlock Edge” from Tony Gibbons via Flos. Tony & Caroline’s band Hetty Peglar’s Tump, based in Cheltenham, have been going almost as long as we have! Summer Waltz, or Sommarwaltzen, was written by Filarfolket bandleader, multi-instrumentalist and amazing person Ale Möller. 

10 Flowers Of Edinburgh 

Is a version used by the Longborough Morris dancers, and was collected by Cecil Sharp from the prime mover in the side, Harry Taylor. 

11 Schottis fran Havero/Another Fine Mess 

Also known as “Schottisch fran Harjedalen”, there are no prizes for guessing that this tune comes from Sweden! The second tune is a remnant of the early days of Edward II and the Red-Hot Polkas and we got it from Dion Cochran. We don’t know the proper name, but he always called it “Another Fine Mess”. 

12 George Greens College Hornpipe 

George Green played melodeon for the Little Downham Molly dancers and photographs taken by WH Palmer on Plough Monday 1932 and reproduced in Elaine Bradtke’s ‘Truculent Rustics - Molly Dancing in East Anglia before 1940’ show him with the dancers. It bears no relation at all to the College Hornpipe that most people know which is also known as ‘The Sailor’s Hornpipe’. George Green’s tune now often accompanies the dance ‘Mr Dolly’ originated by the Southampton based border morris team Red Stag 

13 Basquet of Oysters and Sally Sloanes 

Basquet of Oysters is three parts collated by Pete Coe from a longer Basque tune that he heard on a tape owned by our friend and fellow musician Andrew Cronshaw. The second part is the same as the B music of the well known tune The Oyster Girl which gives us our title. Pete tells us firmly that the triple ‘hits’ in the C music were not how the tune was played originally. We have ignored this. 
Sally Sloane was an Australian fiddler/melodeonist of Irish descent but her jig is not particularly Irish. It appears in Yorkshire (in one of Lawrence Leadley’s handwritten manuscripts of around 1840) as Trip to Cottingham, but was previously published by one John Simpson (who claimed to have invented the tenor flageolet and had a shop in Regent Street London) as Le Nouvelle Fantasie (probably an English fashionable construct rather than an actual French tune, given the bad grammar of the title). 


14 Freedom of Ireland/Kitchen Girl 

The first tune came to the band via Rod Stradling, who had it from a melodeon player in Sutton, Surrey. However, the original source was probably the classic recording by “The King of the Pipers” Leo Rowsome, who recorded it in 1948. It also appears related to the song “I’ll Marry and I’ll Never Be A Nun” and is another of the family of tunes which included “Salmon Tails”, a fact which causes much confusion in sessions! 
Fi got “The Kitchen Girl” from Sarah Gray. 


15 Beatrice Hill’s Three-Hand Reel 

Another Gloucestershire tune, from Bromsberrow Heath melodeon player Beatrice Hill, recorded in 1952. Her father kept the village pub and was the “King” or leader of the Bromsberrow Heath Morris Dancers. Beatrice Hill’s sister was the superb (and little-known) traditional singer Emily Bishop, who was recorded by Peter Kennedy talking about the Morris and singing a number of carols. The tune has travelled a bit and appears twice in Australia, once by fiddler Charlie Bachelor played as a schottische and again (just about) as Kate Kelly’s Waltz (source unknown). 

16 Ger The Rigger/Mickey Chewing Bubble Gum 

Ger The Rigger comes from the playing of the wonderful Jackie Daley of Sliabh Luachra. Jackie, along with equally brilliant fiddle player Seamus Creagh came to the Cheltenham area and did a small tour on a couple of occasions in the 70’s and the band learned the tunes then. I’m pretty sure they used to follow it with the second tune, which we never got the name of at that time but have since learned they call “Bill Sullivan’s”. In fact, it was composed by Terry “Cuz” Teahan as a youngster prior to leaving Ireland for America; he called it “Mickey Chewing Bubble Gum”. Philippe Varlet says that Teahan composed the tune while still taking lessons with the great Sliabh Luachra fiddler Padraig O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe liked the composition and continued to teach it after Teahan’s departure, and it eventually circulated among local musicians; hence the name “Bill Sullivan’s,” after a local player. 
The Green-Clad Hills/Jimmy Garson’s March
Jimmy Garson was an Orcadian musician recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1955. One of the tunes he played was an untitled march tune
Sample not available
Jack Robinson/William Irwins No. 3/The Tipputs
There was a comic song “Jack Robinson” being sung on the London stage in the 1820’s - whether there is any connection is not known. We got the tune from the much missed Mel Dean. <br>William Irwin’s No. 3 is from a MS tunebook compiled by William Irwin of Wigtown
Sample not available
Steamboat Hornpipe/Gloucester Hornpipe
Steamboat is a popular English tune
Sample not available
False Start
Sample not available
General Ward/The Day Room
Both written by Paul when he was in hospital!
Sample not available
Winster Gallop/Four-Hand Reel/Dark Girl Dressed In Blue
This set of tunes was included on the band’s first album ‘No Reels’ in 1977 and Dave Hunt adapted a dance for it
Sample not available
Church Street/ Redwing / St. Marys
Ah - a quintessential set of English tunes. Well
Sample not available
Flowers Of Edinburgh/Soldier’s Joy/Morpeth Rant
The first known appearance in print of one of the most popular of all tunes
Sample not available
Wenlock Edge/Summer Waltz
We had “Wenlock Edge” from Tony Gibbons via Flos. Tony & Caroline’s band Hetty Peglar’s Tump
Sample not available
Flowers Of Edinburgh
Is a version used by the Longborough Morris dancers
Sample not available
Schottis fran Havero/Another Fine Mess
Also known as “Schottisch fran Harjedalen”
Sample not available
George Greens College Hornpipe
George Green played melodeon for the Little Downham Molly dancers and photographs taken by WH Palmer on Plough Monday 1932 and reproduced in Elaine Bradtke’s ‘Truculent Rustics - Molly Dancing in East Anglia before 1940’ show him with the dancers. It bears no relation at all to the College Hornpipe that most people know which is also known as ‘The Sailor’s Hornpipe’. George Green’s tune now often accompanies the dance ‘Mr Dolly’ originated by the Southampton based border morris team Red Stag
Sample not available
Basquet of Oysters and Sally Sloanes
Basquet of Oysters is three parts collated by Pete Coe from a longer Basque tune that he heard on a tape owned by our friend and fellow musician Andrew Cronshaw. The second part is the same as the B music of the well known tune The Oyster Girl which gives us our title. Pete tells us firmly that the triple ‘hits’ in the C music were not how the tune was played originally. We have ignored this. <br>Sally Sloane was an Australian fiddler/melodeonist of Irish descent but her jig is not particularly Irish. It appears in Yorkshire (in one of Lawrence Leadley’s handwritten manuscripts of around 1840) as Trip to Cottingham
Sample not available
Freedom of Ireland/Kitchen Girl
The first tune came to the band via Rod Stradling
Sample not available
Beatrice Hill’s Three-Hand Reel
Another Gloucestershire tune
Sample not available
Ger The Rigger/Mickey Chewing Bubble Gum
Ger The Rigger comes from the playing of the wonderful Jackie Daley of Sliabh Luachra. Jackie
Sample not available

Thefolkmag

Bob Taberner

This is the bands first recording for over 20 years and marks their 30th anniversary. The band today is very different from how they started out. When Rod and Danni Stradling left, there was a radical change of sound from a melodeon-led band to one with three fiddles and three brass instruments, plus keyboard and percussion. The brass section gives a tremendous lift to the tunes. Being an eight-strong line-up has limited their appearances over the years, but, of late, it seems weve seen them more often as festival and dance organisers realise their importance (and popularity).

Anyone looking for a source of new tunes might be a bit disappointed with this CD. The 16 tracks include some tunes that have appeared on previous recordings and even a few tunes (e.g. Winster Gallop, Soldiers Joy) that might be thought a bit pass� in the average session. Digging up new tunes is not what the Old Swan Band are about. They take good tunes and make them eminently danceable. Even the the unlikely insertion of Redwing between the Irish session standards Church Street and St Marys is a triumph. The average session player can learn a lot here about how to play for dancing. In fact, more of them should do just that.

Highly recommended.

Dai Woosnam

Dai Woosnam

Fortunately I had my windows double-glazed. I say �fortunately� because for the past six hours I have had �Old Swan� blasting out at full volume, and one never knows with neighbours. Whilst I'm sure that most would have sent me �thankyou notes�, there's always the odd malcontent who will take umbrage at ANYTHING: like the direction smoke takes when it comes out of one's chimney. So I kept the windows firmly closed, and with the wife out at work, I had �Old Swan� all to myself.

And I feel like the cat which had all the cream. Except I did not purr and then fall asleep. On the contrary, I found myself first tapping my feet and drumming my fingers on my desk, before �taking to the floor� and skipping in and out of the rooms of my house.

Not a pleasant sight, but a rather remarkable one. Anyone who knows me will realise that the mastering of basic terpsichorean skills has always somehow escaped me. (And, thinking about it: perhaps tripping would be a better word that skipping since it incorporates the TWO meanings that applied in my case! But whatever the right word, as I say, such was the infectious quality of this album, that it got me to my feet.)

This is their first album since 1981, and thus their first �post-Rod & Danny Stradling� CD. There have been a few personnel changes since they started life in 1974, but none more important than the cataclysmic one in 1982 when the Stardlings left. At that time it was figured that they were irreplaceable in their roles, and thus a decision was made to go for an all fiddle line up.

One thing that hasn't changed in the thirty years of their existence is their desire to concentrate on English dance tunes, rather than Celtic.

 

Thus the tunes on this album are almost totally English in source: though the Basque tune that forms the basis of the wittily-named �Basquet of Oysters� is a notable exception, and so is a fine Swedish tune that starts track 11. This latter is so impishly mischievous it almost threatens to

EDS

Val Huzzard

A brand new CD from a band that?in one form or another? have been around a good long time.

This CD does what Old Swan do best ? make you want to get up and dance your socks off!

By the time I had heard as far as track 3 (An unusual version of the Steamboat followed by one of my favourites ?Gloucester Hornpipe) I was close to calling on the neighbours to get up a set for The Nottingham swing.

The 3 to 4 fiddles of Fi Fraser, Paul Burgess, John Adams and Flos Headford really drive this music and create a truly wild and exciting sound.

Im a great fan of gutsy brass in dance bands, but I was a little disappointed with the mixing here. The saxophones of Jo Freya and Neil Gledhill seemed to be mixed well back and hard to distinguish at times. The trombone of

John Adams came into its own at times, but again I felt was underplayed.

There are some absolutely cracking tunes on this CD. Its interesting to read in the sleeve notes just how many were collected from melodeon players when there isnt a melodeon between them any more. A lot of this material is (possibly over) familiar?what I would call standard ceilidh tunes played in a very traditional way. The Winster Gallop/Flowers of Edinburgh sets contain tunes heard in sessions and ceilidhs up and down the land. However Old Swan give these tunes a very special magic. They are all brilliant musicians, and are all obviously having the time of their lives playing this.

In contrast, the two waltzes Wenlock Edge/Summer Waltz are less well known, but make a good pair. Well Done Old Swan for including the latter by Ale Muller. Its a superb Swedish waltz, and deserves more airing here.

So, if you are a fan of good solid ceilidh band music, enjoy listening to real feel good sounds and want to hear some great musicianship. Buy this and get your mates round to dance all night. By the way Old Swan, Ive already started learning some of these great tunes on the melodeon to introduce into Sheffield sessions.


Folk on Tap

SB

The Cotswold Liberation Front, the antecedents of the Old Swan Band, came together in 1974 and immediately raised the hackles of the Folk Old Guard in DEFAS because of their innovation and refusal to keep to the established way of playing English dance music. With various personnel changes they continued playing and recording until 1983. Since then they have played but not recorded, until now, in their 30th year. Of course, in the intervening

time their style has been copied and advanced and been absorbed into the tradition. The current 8 members of the band bring fiddles, saxophones, brass, keyboards and percussion to the dance. Their music is no longer controversial; but it is jolly and thats a good thing for a dance record. This is good stuff in the most foot tapping of ways and I enjoyed it.

fRoots

Colin Irwin

Sometimes? only sometimes, mind ? it seems pointless sitting at home listening to CDs of dance bands. They are, after all, playing music for the specific purpose of getting you on your feet and twirling yourself into a frenzy and with your headphones on your lap and the cat on your head, it seems a self?defeating process. At the end of the day, Brian, its music for dancing, not for listening.

That is, of course, an absurdly simplistic appraisal and in the summer of dance, with everyone and their Auntie Mimi releasing dance records, there have been some honourable exceptions. This knocks them all into a cocked hat. Considering theyve been going for about a hundred years (oh ok, 30...) Old Swan play with a zest, hunger and, yes, a lust that must frankly terrify all the new kids on the block who might well have been inspired to form bands by them in the first place.

Flaying fiddles whip your ears to attention, while a volley of saxes stomp into the action and theres such an airy zip about Martin Brinsfords livewire percussion it actually feels like a parcel of gladness. If the au pair hadnt manacled me to the sofa Id be dancing on the ceiling right now, I can tell you.

The key is they dont sound like theyre thinking about it. Someones stuck a load of instruments in their hands and theyre instantly bounding away, sounding like theyll carry on playing til they drop, clearly hopelessly, irretrievably in love with the music. And thats an irresistibly infectious quality. John Adams, Paul Burgess, the Fraser sisters, Neil Gledhill, Martin Brinsford, Flos Headford, Heather Horsley ?theyre old hands at this. They dont look right, they dont look left, they just play and theyve gathered some killer tunes to do it with: Wenlock Edge, Freedom Of Ireland, Flowers Of Edinburgh, General Ward... wondrous, intoxicating sounds all. The formidable frontline of fiddles is specially seductive and this really is English dance music at its most invigorating. Incredibly its 21 years

Putting on Airs

Jamie OBrien

Like Compass, WildGoose is a reliable label, generally releasing top quality albums. Not always to my taste, true, but the quality cant be denied. Here they have teamed up with a legendary English country dance group, the Old Swan Band. Old Swan has a long and illustrious history, but is a band which has rarely recorded ? their last release was an EP in 1983. SwanUpmanship is a nice little gem which would have been worth waiting for but for the fact that 22 years is too long a time.

The 15 highly danceable tracks are performed with gusto and great enjoyment by the eight musicians who play trombone, percussion, tenor and bass sax, whistle, keyboards and fiddle between them. The three fiddlers ? Paul Burgess, Fi Fraser and Flos Headford are right up front most of the time (joined by a fourth, John Adams, on one track) but the exceptional percussion work of Martin Brinsford and Heather Horsleys wonderful piano are so creative I think I could spend all my time listening just to them. Of course, the brass section (Adams, Jo Freya and Neil Gledhill) also gives the band an extra dimension, helping create a really dynamic sound.

Many of the tunes will be familiar to lovers of Irish and American music, but the Old Swan Band presents them in their English versions and frankly, they do an absolutely spivving job. (And with a sub?title memorable tunes with sensible titles, how can they go wrong? Brilliant!)

Shreds and Patches

Baz Parkes

Essential listening; why on earth havent you bought it already?

OK, Ive calmed down now. Like many of us The Old Swan Bands No Reels was my first introduction to English music. Some of us took it as a guidebook and went the way it suggested, others treated it as a rulebook; content to play those tunes in that order for the rest of their musical lives. No matter which camp you feel you fell into (if either), you cant but agree that it was a seminal recording. And it was recorded as long ago as 1977, although the band had been in existence in various guises for three years before that. Two full length albums followed in 1979 and 1981, and an EP (remember them?) in 1983. And nothing since (unless you count the splendid retrospective Still Swarming After All These Years released on Free Reed in 1995 to celebrate the bands 21st birthday).

So whats happened since then? For many, the keystone of the Old Swan sound was the melodeon playing of the guru himself, Rod Stradling, coupled with the percussion of wife Danny. When the pair decided to pursue other musical directions in 1982, many thought it would be the end of the band. So it was, but only THAT band. The remaining members agreed that the Stradlings would be nigh on impossible to replace, and opted for the three?fiddle front line (Fi Fraser, Paul Burgess and honorary Stroppy Flos Headford) that fronts the band to this day. Ably supported by keyboards, trombone, saxes, whistles and percussion, this is a band that demands you dance. On the subject of percussion, it sounds like founder member Martin Brinsford has added one bit of kit for every year since their formation in 1974. He was driving enough armed with a simple tambourine, now lies Shreds 8 Patches Issue 32

virtually unstoppable? He also contributes some lovely gob?iron to several tracks, although this doesnt seem to be credited on the sleeve notes.

Its virtually impossible to pick out any outstanding tracks, as theyre all wonderful. I do have a certain fo

Taplas

Mike Greenwood

ITS A red letter day when the first new recording for over twenty years by the best dance band on the planet drops through the letterbox. Swan?Upmanship lives up to all expectations. Born out of the Cheltenham music scene of the mid?1970s, Old Swan Band took a radical swing in direction in the early 80s, going for a three?fiddle lead with a brass backing. This is their first album since that move ? and well worth the wait.

With an unerring knack of starting a set with a straight up?and?down arrangement, they gradually introduce an element of swing that threatens, but is never allowed to hide the beat from the dancers feet. Typically, Heather Horsleys vamping keyboard kicks off Flowers of Edinburgh, while the massed fiddles perform accentuated slides up to the leading melody notes. By the time this set segues into Morpeth Rant, Martin Brinsfords positively martial percussion style has been abandoned for jazzy off?beats and Johnny Adams trombone comes in to push everything over the edge.

Aside from its sustained listenability, this album is a must?have for and? musician looking to bag a quintessential repertoire for that rare non?Irish pub session.

While Cheltenham was the undisputed centre of gravity of the English music scene three decades ago, these days the buzz seems to emanate from South Yorkshire. The enthusiasm and exuberance of Sheffields youthful Morris and sword teams overspills into bands such as Jabadaw and Crucible, with Richard and Jess Arrowsmith usually to be found at the hub of things. Within Hekety, their melodeons and fiddle/viola are bolstered by a cittern/guitar and bass rhythm section and counterpointed by the klezmeric swing of Jo Veals clarinet. Furze Cat has spent several years in gestation and this string of well?matured arrangements is the result of playing a shedful of ceilidhs at mainline festivals and beyond.

But this is music for both head and feet, its hallmark being a strong, rhythmic pulse from bass and cittern, allied to inv

Whats Afoot

Old Swan have been one of the most influential bands on the English folk dance scene for over thirty years, and it is most surprising that this album is their first recording for some twenty years. Their focus at the outset on melodeondriven English traditional tunes in slow polka rhythm augmented by brass ruffled more than a few feathers amongst the more conservative folk dancing fraternity, but they were at the forefront of the newly?developing ceilidh scene which attracted a lot of new ? and younger ? blood to the delights of dancing to a vibrant, rhythmic sound.

When founder?members Rod & Danny Stradling left the band in 1982, the squeeze?box lead was replaced by an all fiddle melody line?up, which has been retained to this day. Three better English style fiddlers than Paul Burgess, Fi Fraser and Flos Headfond you would be hard put to find ! The brass is still there, with the trombone of John Adams, tenor sax of Jo Freya and bass sax of Neil Gledhill, and the strong rhythm remains a key feature, with Martin Brinsford still on drums, and Heather Horsley on keyboard.

Their repertoire on this CD, though still largely English, nevertheless incorporates wider influences, and the range of rhythms that one would usually find on a folk dance album ? reels, polkas, hornpipes, jigs, and waltz. Indeed, I cant believe arty old stick?in?the?mud would find fault with the dance music on offer here; other bands are now pushing the boundaries and ruffling the feathers.

I thoroughly enjoyed this album. Theres some old favourites, like Jimmy Garsons March, Winster Gallop, Soldiers Joy and Morpeth Rant, two different versions of Flowers of Edinburgh on different tracks, and some familiar strains of Oyster Girl found in a Basque tune (the title Basques of Oysters is a very apt pun). Even if the high quality of the musicianship were not enough, several less familiar tunes gleaned from local sources in Gloucestershire to a waltz and schottiche from Sweden add to the interest. Hopef

Tradition

Clive Pownceby

A new recording and the first in over 20 years from what was the seminal English Country Dance Band of the 70s with its No Reels album giving the impetus to so many groups to start playing for dances and drop the song clubs. Some familiar names remain - the Fraser sisters and Martin Brinsford, for instance, but of course Rod and Danny Stradling, considered the unit's prime movers, left as long ago as 1982. However the circle has stayed unbroken -there has never been a relocation to splitsville and the end has never been nigh.

Manifestly better at what they do than many of their upstart peers (except they don't make a fuss about it) this CD is packed to the brim with tunes as diverse as George Green's College Hornpipe - from the Little Downham Molly dancing tradition and Beatrice Hill's Three-Hand Reel from a 1952 recording made in Bromsberrrow Heath to more familiar fare a la Winster Gallop and Flowers Of Edinburgh. The erudite insert notes by Paul Burgess and John Adams make fascinating, informative reading and there are times during this CD when its diversity and ambition make 1977's No Reels masterpiece sound like a practice run. The net is cast wide and, playing with a fearsome conviction, the scope of this recording is truly eclectic. A vast ocean of music indeed, with the sheer joy of performance apparent throughout the album - you can't help but be caught up in it and I doubt that Old Swan has ever sounded this passionate, this committed to its material.

Using English Dance Music as a jumping off point, there's still a distinct 'own' take on the use of fiddles with: brass, percussion and keyboards to ensure what the band hopes we'll discover for ourselves "a tap to the foot and an inclination to dance." Rather than compete with its past, thanks and respect are accorded to all previous members of the band. "You can only build on solid foundations" they say. Swanupmanship is the triumph of a band that can do just that and wrest greatness from its own tradition.