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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews New Road to Alston by Dave Townsend and Gill Redmond

This is the first album by this duo who have been playing together for some years. Dave Townsend is well known for his expertise on the English concertina. In fact, I think he is one of the best exponents of this instrument in the country. In the words of my old mate and also expert concertina player Keith Kendrick, Dave is 'A complete musician.' Likewise, Gill Redmond is a classically trained and experienced player of the cello. They have both, at different times, been members of various folk bands and been involved in many musical projects.

I must admit that, before I started to play this CD, I had reservations as to how a concertina and a cello would blend instrumentally. Actually, it works - very well indeed!

They open with two of the jolly tunes featured on the album which are called 'New Road to Alston' (the title track, of course) and 'Trip to Cartmel'. The latter is from Cumbria and it sounded familiar to me so I looked it up on the song and tune notes in the CD's sleeve. Further reading of the sleeve notes revealed that Carolyn Francis is mentioned as one of the revivalist musicians who inspired Dave and Gill to play some of the tunes. Then it all fell into place; Carolyn works as a fiddle tutor for the Folkus music workshops and where I've heard her play these tunes with some of the pupils.

The tunes are wide ranging in their choice including ones from the Shaker tradition, Swedish tunes, Yorkshire tunes and other tunes from Cumbria. Nearly all the tunes are up tempo which contrasts nicely with the songs of death, torture, infidelity, sex and general mayhem that makes up part of our wonderful traditional song heritage!
Having said that, the first song on the album is a version of 'The Lousy Tailor' which actually is darkly amusing. One song that really took my fancy was 'The Shepherds' Song' from Oxfordshire set to the tune 'Dives and Lazarus'. This sounds lovely with the cello accompaniment nicely complimenting the concertina. The song ends in the ale house which probably is why I like it so much! There's an interesting version of 'The Banks of the Nile' too and 'Rolling in the Dew' is as suggestive as it sounds.

This album is a real treat to listen to and a must for all you who love traditional songs and tunes. Another Wild Goose triumph in recording and production available from their web site or through their distributors Proper Music.