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Paul Burgess of Shreds & Patches

reviews The Whitchurch Hornpipe by Neil Brookes and Tony Weatherall

Wild Goose here present more recently discovered manuscripts and another batch of fine and unusual tunes in the English tradition, to follow on from their `Hampshire Dance Tunes' album from last year. Whereas that featured an array of artists, with an extensive booklet and indeed, tunebook to accompany the issue, this issue is considerably more subdued.

Neil Brookes is a fine English fiddler, specialising in the tunes of his Cheshire locality, whilst the Boat Band, with whom Tony Weatherall's sparky box-playing is a feature, have a proud and pioneering tradition of presenting local English dance music. Here we have 26 tunes from four early 19th-century collections: many with local titles and all bar a couple previously unknown and unperformed. The playing is enthusiastic and lively, sounding as if the players have the tunes well under their fingers rather than just going through them for the recording. There are a couple of multi-tracked "band" performances, thought these are resolutely chordal rather than part-based as would have been usual at the time.

The recording is a trifle odd - the fiddle and melodeon swap sides on tracks 1 and 2 and microphone placing unduly emphasises a couple of the right-hand notes of the melodeon. This is a shame as it detracts slightly from the quality of the performances. The notes are skeletal (with Oh What A Row, for instance it would be more interesting to be told that it was a popular song of 1822, which was published as a cotillion two years later, rather than merely "we hope you don't find the title of the second tune too apt.") - a strange thing considering the excellent work which went into the "Hampshire" Collection.

These small blemishes are a shame, but they are small and should not detract from an excellent and unusual collection of tunes, which should have anyone interested in English dance music hastily acquiring a copy