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Vic Smith of fRoots

reviews The Whitchurch Hornpipe by Neil Brookes and Tony Weatherall

fRoots Playlist selection

Neil on fiddle and Tony on melodeon have produced as interesting and exciting performances of English dance tunes as you are likely to hear anywhere. They are all taken from handwritten manuscripts of the first half of the 19th century, mostly from one Shropshire family.

They consist, as one might expect, of tunes that sound as though they have dance music or military band origins with marches, hornpipes waltzes and reels. The six reels from the Richard Hughes manuscripts are of particular interest, as is the way that Tony adopts a noticeably English way of playing reels. In fact, the whole album could be held up as a model of the way that English dance music should be played - plain functional music that also makes exciting listening when played with this zest.

Some of the tunes are interesting variants of popular dance melodies-Soldier's Cloak, Juliana - but more are relatively unknown and deserve to be heard more. Contact with the musicians brought the information that there are over 450 tunes in these manuscripts and that their publication is envisaged some time in the future, an event that should be eagerly anticipated.