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reviews Swan-Upmanship by The Old Swan Band

Old Swan have been one of the most influential bands on the English folk dance scene for over thirty years, and it is most surprising that this album is their first recording for some twenty years. Their focus at the outset on melodeondriven English traditional tunes in slow polka rhythm augmented by brass ruffled more than a few feathers amongst the more conservative folk dancing fraternity, but they were at the forefront of the newly?developing ceilidh scene which attracted a lot of new ? and younger ? blood to the delights of dancing to a vibrant, rhythmic sound.
When founder?members Rod & Danny Stradling left the band in 1982, the squeeze?box lead was replaced by an all fiddle melody line?up, which has been retained to this day. Three better English style fiddlers than Paul Burgess, Fi Fraser and Flos Headfond you would be hard put to find ! The brass is still there, with the trombone of John Adams, tenor sax of Jo Freya and bass sax of Neil Gledhill, and the strong rhythm remains a key feature, with Martin Brinsford still on drums, and Heather Horsley on keyboard.
Their repertoire on this CD, though still largely English, nevertheless incorporates wider influences, and the range of rhythms that one would usually find on a folk dance album ? reels, polkas, hornpipes, jigs, and waltz. Indeed, I cant believe arty old stick?in?the?mud would find fault with the dance music on offer here; other bands are now pushing the boundaries and ruffling the feathers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album. Theres some old favourites, like Jimmy Garsons March, Winster Gallop, Soldiers Joy and Morpeth Rant, two different versions of Flowers of Edinburgh on different tracks, and some familiar strains of Oyster Girl found in a Basque tune (the title Basques of Oysters is a very apt pun). Even if the high quality of the musicianship were not enough, several less familiar tunes gleaned from local sources in Gloucestershire to a waltz and schottiche from Sweden add to the interest. Hopef