Dave Tuxford of The Living Tradition
reviews Four Across by English RebellionIt would have been remiss if English Rebellionís latest CD hadnít found space for a couple of songs from band member Mary Humphreys (fine versions of Gypsyís Wedding Ė which Iíd not heard since Lincolnshireís Broadside recorded it many years ago - and The Bonny Bunch of Roses-O, unusually set to Bampton Morris tune The Rose Tree).
Apart from these interludes Four Across comprises the sprightly mix of jigs, hornpipes and polkas, some from sources such as the Lawrence Leadley manuscript, some penned by the bandís Nick Barber (also responsible for the elegant, informative inlay notes), John Kirkpatrick or other contemporaries, which make this four-piece so in demand for ceilidhs and other social dances. Of course, this isnít the bass-heavy, brass-driven sound of Whapweasel or Hekety so familiar from Sidmouth Late Night Extras, more the sort of Flowers-blurred sun-drenched ambience of that same festivalís Anchor Gardens lunchtime ceilidhs.
Itís always slightly difficult to assess music primarily intended for dancing divorced from the physical activity, but it helps that Humphreys, Anahata, Nick and Mary Barber have between them around a century of playing traditional instruments in various bands (fiddler Mary is also Deputy Leader of the Huddersfield Philharmonic). It therefore scarcely needs comment that the technical aspects of their performance are (as far as I can tell) impeccable. Doug Bailey of Wild Goose does his usual excellent job on balance and instrumental separation.
Itís all gloriously English (in the best possible way) and a delight even if you donít play melodeon, fiddle or concertina yourself. Or, possibly, even dance.