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Colin Andrews of Whats Afoot

reviews New Road to Alston by Dave Townsend and Gill Redmond

Dave will need no introduction as founder of the Mellstock Band and the Hands On Music Weekends, while Gill has performed on cello with a wide spectrum of classical ensembles, folk bands and theatre companies. They have been playing together for several years but this WildGoose album is their first, as a duo.

In some ways there are similarities with the `Out of Reach' album with some really great tunes, drawn mostly from traditional sources and some cracking good songs. And yes, there's Swedish Schottis and an Engelska hornpipe, and the Welsh waltz Ffarwel Marian and Aberdaugleddau. The musical arrangements, too, with cello and English concertina are absolutely delightful and inspirational.

The difference is that the material, certainly with respect to the tunes, is generally unfamiliar, and draws on a number of manuscript sources, in particular some from Cumbria. I suspect, however, that by the time this CD has done the rounds, there will be a number of its tunes being introduced into sessions. The title tune comes from an 1816 manuscript once owned by Frank Kidson, and is paired with Trip to Cartmel from the Browne Family of Troutbeck. A Lakeland fiddler, Matthew Betham (1815) is the source of the Chinese Dance, a tune which seems to capture the mood of the tragic song, The Captain's Apprentice, which it follows. Other Cumbrian tunes include Washington Hornpipe, William Irwin's Hornpipe, Old Age & Young, and Variations on Johnny Cope, while the Yorkshire manuscript of Joshua Jackson is represented by the Boroughbridge Rant and a set of jigs, and a couple Scan Tester's step dance tunes from Sussex also get an airing.

The songs are also well chosen familiar in some respects, but versions perhaps less well known, such as Phil Tanner's Banks of the Sweet Primroses and The Shepherds' Song, sung to the Dives & Lazarus tune.

I enjoyed listening to this CD and I am sure you will too. Oh, and by the way, the cover was designed by our own Hilary Bix.