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of Lancashire Wakes

reviews The Whitchurch Hornpipe by Neil Brookes and Tony Weatherall

Whenever a newly unearthed collection of tunes becomes available, dance musicians the length of the country will usually prick up their ears in the hope of finding some gems to add to their repertoire. Such gems are to be found on this splendid album by Neil Brookes and Tony Weatherall. The twenty?six tunes are selected from a collection found in five hand written manuscript books from the North Shropshire area, many of which are thought to be the works of local musicians. Dated between 1801 and 1837, they are mainly dance tunes, but others such as Wellington's Victory and The Shropshire Hero, have clear military connections from the Napoleonic wars.

Neil, playing fiddles and flute, and Tony on melodeons, demonstrate a high standard of musicianship on most of the tracks and manage to achieve a pleasant and effective variety in their musical presentation, suited to each set of tunes. Harmony is used appropriately, but not overpoweringly. Some tunes, such as Mrs Cholmondeley's, The Woolsack and the title track, The Whitchurch Hornpipe, have instant appeal and will entice musicians to reach for their instruments after just one hearing, while others, such as The Flock's in a Fluster and Albert Hughes' Waltz, will become firm favourites in the due course of time.

The CD booklet contains interesting descriptions of the five collectors and their manuscripts, together with brief notes on each of the seventeen tracks. There does however, appear to be a printing error on the track listing in the booklet, which shows tracks 14 and 15 the wrong way round. There are short biographies of the two musicians but I would also have appreciated seeing a photograph of them ? it's always good to put faces to the names!
The Whitchurch Hornpipe is certainly an album that both Neil and Tony should be proud of, and one that deserves to find its way into the collections of lovers of English dance music.