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Vic Smith of fRoots

reviews Old Virginia by Rattle on the Stovepipe

Having seen Rattle On The Stovepipe live on many occasions, it is possible to reveal that they always start their performances with an instrumental. Invariably, it has the audience leaning forward on their chairs in an attitude of pleasurable expectation of musical treats to come. It is the same with this album; the lovely opener, Chinquapin Hunting, sharpens the listeners’ ears for more delights – and they are not to be disappointed.

The trio brings together two of the British folk scene’s most admired veterans, Dave Arthur and Pete Cooper. Both have been members of leading bands and duos for decades now but never has either been heard to better effect than in this line-up. The third member is the much younger multiinstrumentalist Dan Stewart. Living in the same area as Dan and seeing him perform fairly often, it has been a great pleasure to see his rapid progress on his main instrument from talented newcomer to his present position as one of Europe’s leading Old Timey banjo players.

On their earlier albums, the band concerned themselves with the transition and transfer of songs and tunes from Britain to the New World. This time they have clearly landed in North America as they present a well-programmed and carefully researched selection of tunes and songs.

Following the usual sequence of listening to the album a few times before reading the notes, it came as a considerable surprise that Young And Venturesome was in fact written by Dave, when it has all the qualities of a 19th-Century Civil War-era American composition. Ah yes, and the notes… It is very interesting that every word in the excellent booklet tells us about research, facts and anecdotes on the tunes and songs and not a word about themselves. That seems to tell us quite a lot about the band’s attitude and approach.