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Phil Bird of Traditional Music Maker

reviews Drop the Reed by Belshazzar's Feast

Since Belshazzars Feast formed in 1995 they have performed at concert venues ranging from the Southbank, major festivals, to small village halls both here and abroad. They have also done television and radio, as well as fulfilling
commitments to other bands and contributing to a number of other artist album projects.

1 first came across them playing a Ceilidh at Sidmouth Festival in l 997, where the charm and feel good quality of the music had everyone dancing until knackered ? well at least 1 was. Just before Christmas Wild Goose Records held a CD launch for Drop the Reed at the Fir Tree Tavern, one of Oxfords best and friendliest trad music venues. Paul Sartin and Paul Hutchinson, who are the aforementioned duo, played a great live unplugged set to a packed house. The impromptu invasion of merry carol singers at some point in the proceedings only enhanced the already festive atmosphere and raised the gathering to new heights of musical camaraderie and caroling.

Drop the Reed is an elegant and classy album. Whereas One Too Many, their first release, enlisted the talents of various notable musical accomplices, the new album takes a different route. It aims to present a live approach, more in keeping with the duos performance style. To this end producer Mark Powell (who has worked for many leading folk artists including Fairport Convention and Steve Ashley) has kept the production value simple, givinq, the album a very warm acoustic natural feel.

Drop the Reed is a collection of carefully chosen traditional music and some beautiful composition from Paul Sartin. The flavours and textures of the CD are, rooted in a variety of European contexts, with stuff from England, Wales via the Bodleian Library, Denmark and the Massive Central Tune Book 2. This is well in keeping with the two Pauls eclectic live set, which has over the years included 18th century Playford tunes, Scandinavian waltzes, Music Hall songs and self penned work. An unerring quality of virtuoso musicianship and skill in interpreting and arranging, holds this diverse collection together.

Paul Hutchinson, who in another guise plays for the acclaimed. country rock group Ida Red, is here engaged in the deceptively rela xed approach to his accordion playing, which makes it sound almost effortless, yet the timing between the two musicians feels intuitive and spot on.

Paul Sartin is a virtuoso on violin and oboe, he makes these instruments really sing and cover a wide range of expressions and mood, from lyrical, light and jaunty, through to reflective, sad and soulful tone colours. On the album compare Pauls twooriginal compositions Air with its meditative and melancholy slow progression and Miste Costa which he describes in the sleeve notes as a big hairy tune for a big hairy friend. Paul also provides the vocals for the two songs on the album. Twenty Eighteen is a trad song from Norfolk found in Broadwood and Fullers English Country Songs and The Miller of Dee he remembers hearing as a child from his mother. Pauls voice has a classical range and edge, not surprising considering his commitment to the Choir of Christchurch, Oxford which has led to work being featured on Channel 4s The Choir and soundtracks for Mr Bean and The Vicar of Dibley.

Together these two players present a very complete, rich menu of musical delights to inspire and entertain you. The fusion of classical and traditional folk sensibilities works exceedingly well. In short ? a CD of some distinction from a quality outfit. Buy it, lend it only to those you would give your last Rolo. Above all, get to see these blokes play live. Unmissable!