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Gavin Atkin of EDS

reviews Swan for the Money by The Old Swan Band

Some things in life seem to be utterly reliable – and for many years, the wonderfully musical and uplifting sound of The Old Swan Band has certainly been one of them.

I’m glad to report that nothing has changed with this splendid album. After nearly half a lifetime, The Old Swan Band are still making a great sound. The ingredients will be well known to many readers: the tight, often harmonised, playing of three of the best English revival fiddlers, Fi Fraser, Paul Burgess and Floss Headford; the solid piano of Heather Horsley working with Martin Brinsford’s driving and intriguing percussion; and the big, syncopated brass sound produced by Jo Freya’s tenor sax, John Adams’ trombone and Neil Gledhill’s bass sax, which together provide yet another sort of swinging interest and lift. To this list must be added a large ladle-full of an undiminished joy in playing, for these are people who love to play and session together, and with their musician pals everywhere.

If that’s how you’ve enjoyed the Old Swan Band, you won’t be remotely disappointed by this new album made up of a mix of tunes. Some are old band and session favourites going back to the 1970s, such as the pair ‘Dashing White Sergeant’ with ‘Brighton Camp’ and ‘Walter Bulwer’s Nos 2 & 1’, while others are less well known, at least to me. A few are modern tunes by Paul, Floss and Jo, but they don’t sound at all out of place among the old favourites – but that’s what you’d expect from players deeply steeped in this kind of music.

A strong point with this album is the notes describing the sources – many musicians will wish they knew half so much about the sources of some of their favourites.

Finally, I should also mention the striking cover by the Norfolk cartoonist and mightily gifted melodeonist Tony Hall: it depicts a rock’n’roll ‘Swan for the money’ complete with quiff, drape-coat and crepe-soled shoes suitable for a pair of webbed feet, and on the back there’s also an amazing pink Cad-Swan-illac with giant fins and powered by pairs of swan feet. The sleeve notes thank Tony for being as daft as the band, which will seem entirely appropriate to anyone who has enjoyed the company of all the people involved.