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Derek Gifford of Folk Northwest

reviews Fortyssimo by The Old Swan Band

It's Happy 40th Anniversary to the Old Swan Band who celebrate their longevity with this fine collection of tunes from the United Kingdom and around the world.

The band has undergone a small number of changes over the years but the present line up comprises of original members Martin Brinsford (harmonica and percussion), Paul Burgess (fiddle), Fi Fraser (fiddle), Jo Freya (saxophones and whistles) who are joined by Johnny Adams (trombone), Neil Gledhill (bass saxophone), Flos Headford (fiddle) and Heather Horsley (keyboard). With a line up like that you can't go wrong really can you?!

This is not just 'dance music' but cleverly thought out arrangements of traditional or composed tunes that makes it a very easy to listen to album.
There are lots of tunes I recognised like Getting Upstairs (let's see those Morris dancer's capers!), Leeds Polka, Whistling Rufous and The Rose Tree to mention but a few.

Less familiar tunes blended along seamlessly too especially in the three tune set Salford Lasses, Lady Compton's Whim (I wonder what that was? - better not to go down that route!) and Welsh Jigg. Les Trois Puits (or well, well, well!) composed by Paul Burgess had a recognisable French feel to it quickly followed by the very English, and a north-western version of, Barbara Allen and Lancaster's John Winder's The Green Ship. Among the many other tunes contained in the fourteen tracks there are two Schottisches which lilt nicely along called The Queer Fella's Shot-ese and Hayward's Schottische although the first of these, and the clue is in the title, is Australian!

I'm often asked, usually by non-folkies, 'how on earth do you remember all the words of your songs?' to which I could re-phrase in this context 'how on earth do they remember all those notes and in the right order?!!'

This is an album that will jolly you along with whatever you are doing - it got me happily driving from Penzance to Bideford folk clubs on my recent tour in the South-west. Everybody dance! - but not while you're driving, of course.