You are here: Albums > Display Review

Colin Irwin of fRoots

reviews Swan-Upmanship by The Old Swan Band

Sometimes? only sometimes, mind ? it seems pointless sitting at home listening to CDs of dance bands. They are, after all, playing music for the specific purpose of getting you on your feet and twirling yourself into a frenzy and with your headphones on your lap and the cat on your head, it seems a self?defeating process. At the end of the day, Brian, its music for dancing, not for listening.


That is, of course, an absurdly simplistic appraisal and in the summer of dance, with everyone and their Auntie Mimi releasing dance records, there have been some honourable exceptions. This knocks them all into a cocked hat. Considering theyve been going for about a hundred years (oh ok, 30...) Old Swan play with a zest, hunger and, yes, a lust that must frankly terrify all the new kids on the block who might well have been inspired to form bands by them in the first place.


Flaying fiddles whip your ears to attention, while a volley of saxes stomp into the action and theres such an airy zip about Martin Brinsfords livewire percussion it actually feels like a parcel of gladness. If the au pair hadnt manacled me to the sofa Id be dancing on the ceiling right now, I can tell you.


The key is they dont sound like theyre thinking about it. Someones stuck a load of instruments in their hands and theyre instantly bounding away, sounding like theyll carry on playing til they drop, clearly hopelessly, irretrievably in love with the music. And thats an irresistibly infectious quality. John Adams, Paul Burgess, the Fraser sisters, Neil Gledhill, Martin Brinsford, Flos Headford, Heather Horsley ?theyre old hands at this. They dont look right, they dont look left, they just play and theyve gathered some killer tunes to do it with: Wenlock Edge, Freedom Of Ireland, Flowers Of Edinburgh, General Ward... wondrous, intoxicating sounds all. The formidable frontline of fiddles is specially seductive and this really is English dance music at its most invigorating. Incredibly its 21 years