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David Kidman of Netrythms

reviews 8 More Miles by Rattle on the Stovepipe

This release is a kind of follow up to an earlier WildGoose release Return Journey (which was at the time billed as a Dave Arthur album but actually featured the same three musicians: on 8 More Miles, we get Dave on banjo, guitar and, on some of the "band" tracks, melodeon; Pete Cooper on fiddle; and Chris Moreton on guitar and a touch of mandolin).

Like Return Journey, it presents an English (though I hasten to add not "Anglicised"!) take on good ol' string-band music, with authentic versions (culled from both sides of the pond!) of tunes and songs that crossed the Atlantic and became old-time staples. These include some classic balladry and songs (yes, even including some that "everyone and their dog has recorded!") as well as some suitably vigorous dance tunes. The latter include not only the joyful swing of The New Rigged Ship/Green Willis and the proud strut of Fred Pidgeon's No. 1/Jenny Lind Polka, but also the transatlantic twist to Northumbrian piper Tom Clough's Nancy.

Over the range of tunes presented, each of the three musicians displays an amazing degree of stylistic versatility, one you wouldn't necessarily expect to find in performers in this field. With the songs, the highlight for many listeners will be Dave's totally solo outing at the heart of the CD - an absolutely compelling 8-minute rendition of Willie's Ghost that never for a moment palls. But the RotS treatment of various other songs also gives rise to many more delights: there's a spirited Sail Away Ladies as a finale, for instance, and Chris turns in a fine rendition of the Bill Monroe classic Footmarks In The Snow, while I also liked the deliciously relaxed pace of The Light Dragoon (here, such a change from the flippant "tongue-tripping excuse to show off" that the song normally gets saddled with), with a lyrical fiddle line in counterpoint - pity about that rather swift fade on the appended reel, though... Perhaps Pete's interpretation of The Lakes Of Pontchartrain won't quite silence those who say they never want to hear another version of that over-travelled tale of uncertain origin, but it's still a respectable reading that comes near the top of the list of available recordings.

Finally, the presentation is exemplary, with Dave's incredible degree of knowledge and depth of understanding on full display in his supremely informative insert notes, which tell you everything you need to know about the pieces and their sources - and much more besides (at least three of the selections are blessed with around a whole page's worth of mini-essay, and believe me, you won't want to skip a word of it!).

And even within a product crammed full of excellence (for here am I leaving the best observation till last!), the CD has a splendid feel of immediacy, of the three musicians right there in the room performing for you, communicating so very well the music in which they clearly believe 150-percent.