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Jamie OBrien of Putting on Airs

reviews Swan-Upmanship by The Old Swan Band

Like Compass, WildGoose is a reliable label, generally releasing top quality albums. Not always to my taste, true, but the quality cant be denied. Here they have teamed up with a legendary English country dance group, the Old Swan Band. Old Swan has a long and illustrious history, but is a band which has rarely recorded ? their last release was an EP in 1983. SwanUpmanship is a nice little gem which would have been worth waiting for but for the fact that 22 years is too long a time.

The 15 highly danceable tracks are performed with gusto and great enjoyment by the eight musicians who play trombone, percussion, tenor and bass sax, whistle, keyboards and fiddle between them. The three fiddlers ? Paul Burgess, Fi Fraser and Flos Headford are right up front most of the time (joined by a fourth, John Adams, on one track) but the exceptional percussion work of Martin Brinsford and Heather Horsleys wonderful piano are so creative I think I could spend all my time listening just to them. Of course, the brass section (Adams, Jo Freya and Neil Gledhill) also gives the band an extra dimension, helping create a really dynamic sound.

Many of the tunes will be familiar to lovers of Irish and American music, but the Old Swan Band presents them in their English versions and frankly, they do an absolutely spivving job. (And with a sub?title memorable tunes with sensible titles, how can they go wrong? Brilliant!)