You are here: Albums > Display Review

Baz Parkes of EDS

reviews Four Across by English Rebellion

English Rebellion features the combined talents of two of the most talented duos playing dance music and song today. Nick and Mary Barber are perhaps best known as leaders of Sidmouth’s Sidmouth Big Band workshop, whilst Mary Humphreys and Anahata are well known for their many club and festival appearances and, latterly, as members of Pig Dyke Molly’s big band (although you’ll not recognise them because they’ll be in disguise!).

Formed to play for ceilidhs, English Rebellion has a distinctive sound, underpinned by Nick’s French horn playing. I’ve been a long-time fan of Anahata’s melodeon playing; he manages to combine a precision and crispness with a rhythmic attack that few other players master. Mary Humphreys adds to that rhythm with either piano or banjo, while Mary Barber’s fiddle weaves in, out and over tunes in a more than satisfactory manner. But that’s not all; as those who’ve been in sessions with them can testify, all can add other instruments to the mix. Nick has a very different melodeon style to Anahata, and the two complement each other well. Not content with that, he also adds soprano and baritone recorder. Anahata’s cello adds another layer to the sound, as does his Angloconcertina playing, whilst Mary Humphreys’ English concertina proves that the blokes in the band can’t have it all their own way in free reed matters.

All can be heard to fine effect on ‘La Fete de Village/Hornpipe’, apparently used by the band ‘as a warm up tune ... partly because our arrangement uses all the instruments!’ I’m particularly fond of the hornpipe sets ‘Spanish Patriots/Duke of York’s Hornpipe’ and ‘Bath Hornpipe/Miss Gayton’s Hornpipe’, and ‘The Cream Pot/Bang Upp’ drives along nicely.

Mary Humphreys, ably supported by the rest of the company, offers up two songs; a fine version of ‘Gypsy’s Wedding (The Gypsy Girl)’, collected from a wax cylinder recording made by Percy Grainger, and ‘The Bonny Bunch of Roses-O!’ Sung to the Bampton Morris tune ‘The Rose Tree’ and coupled with Rose Murphy’s ‘Last of June’, it’s a lovely version.

Fine tunes, both well and lesser known, unusual versions of songs and exemplary execution throughout. Next uncle by ale (anag).