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Dai Woosnam of Dai Woosnam

reviews Swan-Upmanship by The Old Swan Band

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