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Private Label AFU001

I’m always game to hear new bands, and yes, the name of this Irish trio did make me sit up – after all, they could either be quirkily imaginative and/or fun, or seriously dire, I suppose. And yet I’m sure that while All Folk’d Up (Pauric Mohan on banjo, guitar and mandolin; Luke Ward on bouzouki and bass; and John Cunningham on flute and whistle; with all three taking on vocal duties) don’t comfortably fit either label, they’re definitely not dire!

And yet (again), a glance at the tracklisting almost made me wish I’d not got this disc for review, for the gambit of placing virtually side by side The Mermaid, Star Of The County Down, Wagon Wheel, The Leaving Of Liverpool, Spancil Hill and Hot Asphalt really does not arouse great expectations in the listener. But (once more), AFU’s renditions of these standards are significantly better than efficient - affectionate and respectful yet lively, and sufficiently well-considered to be entertaining.

Even so, these guys clearly have plenty of talent (and not just for Irish folk music – for bluegrass too, we hear), so I’m kinda left wondering why they’re choosing so much of the more hackneyed repertoire for their debut CD? They redeem at least part of that thorny question by the time we reach the disc’s final stages, when they move on to cover Tim O’Brien’s I’ve Enquired, Jimmy McCarthy’s The Contender and Flogging Molly’s If I Ever Leave This World Alive, and Pauric’s own ragtime-inflected Mohan Set makes a stylish penultimate entry into the fray.

And the final impression AFU leaves is that of a well-rounded outfit whose members work well together, producing an attractive sound blend that’s surprisingly full (although they also benefit from the guest presence of a prog-style electric guitarist and drummer on a couple of the tracks, notably the aforementioned Spancil Hill, which receives a rocking workout treatment).

David Kidman


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This album was reviewed in Issue 95 of The Living Tradition magazine.