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NORTH ATLANTIC TRIO - Some Part Of Something

NORTH ATLANTIC TRIO - Some Part Of Something
Bird Creek Records BCR002

You might prefer to forego the cover blurbs: “American girl plays harp in mostly Scottish way with Scottish guy who plays dobro in mostly American way with Irish guy who plays percussion anyway”, but at least it paints a kind of aural picture of what you’re about to hear and once heard, you’ll get what this outfit is about, for the North Atlantic Trio’s self-styled “cross-genre bricolage” intelligently combines Scottish, old-time Appalachian and bluegrass music and emerges gently triumphant at the other end.

The trio’s individual and collective instrumental dexterity is of the quiet, relaxed, undemonstrative kind, but that doesn’t mean any lack of drive or enthusiasm, even though there’s not always an enormous amount of variety within the nature of the arrangements and distribution/interaction of parts within the onward development of each tune or combination of tunes. Having said that, these particular colours make an appealing and distinctive blend that’s unusual for bluegrass-oriented combos. The somewhat esoteric percussion contingent (bodhrán, frame drums, cajon and PanArt hang), courtesy of Dave Boyd, prides itself on deftness and understated virtues, effectively mirroring both Cheyenne Brown’s spirited and precise harp strokes and Dave Currie’s measured yet definitively skilled dobro virtuosity. And the choice of tunes is clever, ensuring that freshness of treatment is both a given and a bold template on which to build; especially inventive is the pairing of Welsh tune The Cuckoo with the old-time staple Whisky Before Breakfast, whose notable feature is a short spell of overtone-singing.

And yet, what rather lets the band down, I feel, is its limited vocal prowess, where Dave Currie, however efficient and competent, doesn’t quite possess the interpretive charisma necessary to lift the performances of the disc’s three songs (Robert Tannahill’s Gloomy Winter’s Noo Awa’, Dirk Powell’s Waterbound and the somewhat ubiquitous Wayfaring Stranger) significantly above the status of reasonably pleasing yet just a touch routine interludes in an otherwise increasingly satisfying purely instrumental grab-bag.

Finally, the disc’s recording quality’s really good, with a keen sense of internal balance that credibly reflects the musical personalities of the band members.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.