You are here: Albums > Display Review

Baz Parkes of Shreds and Patches

reviews Swan-Upmanship by The Old Swan Band

Essential listening; why on earth havent you bought it already?


OK, Ive calmed down now. Like many of us The Old Swan Bands No Reels was my first introduction to English music. Some of us took it as a guidebook and went the way it suggested, others treated it as a rulebook; content to play those tunes in that order for the rest of their musical lives. No matter which camp you feel you fell into (if either), you cant but agree that it was a seminal recording. And it was recorded as long ago as 1977, although the band had been in existence in various guises for three years before that. Two full length albums followed in 1979 and 1981, and an EP (remember them?) in 1983. And nothing since (unless you count the splendid retrospective Still Swarming After All These Years released on Free Reed in 1995 to celebrate the bands 21st birthday).
So whats happened since then? For many, the keystone of the Old Swan sound was the melodeon playing of the guru himself, Rod Stradling, coupled with the percussion of wife Danny. When the pair decided to pursue other musical directions in 1982, many thought it would be the end of the band. So it was, but only THAT band. The remaining members agreed that the Stradlings would be nigh on impossible to replace, and opted for the three?fiddle front line (Fi Fraser, Paul Burgess and honorary Stroppy Flos Headford) that fronts the band to this day. Ably supported by keyboards, trombone, saxes, whistles and percussion, this is a band that demands you dance. On the subject of percussion, it sounds like founder member Martin Brinsford has added one bit of kit for every year since their formation in 1974. He was driving enough armed with a simple tambourine, now lies Shreds 8 Patches Issue 32
virtually unstoppable? He also contributes some lovely gob?iron to several tracks, although this doesnt seem to be credited on the sleeve notes.
Its virtually impossible to pick out any outstanding tracks, as theyre all wonderful. I do have a certain fo