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MAGPIE LANE "A Taste of Ale" Beautiful Jo Records BEJOCD32

With May Day and the Morris Dance season grinding, may crunching arthritically into gear, what indeed could be better than "A Taste of Ale". This album by the band Magpie Lane gives aural life to Roy Palmer's excellent work 'A Taste of Ale' (also available from beautiful Jo). Many of the song titles suggest familiarity - 'John Barleycorn',' Good Ale', 'Hop Picking Song' and 'Trowl the Bowl' - but on further examination these are very distinctively different, yet authentic versions. The standard of singing by Ian Giles, Andy Turner and Di Whitehead is very good indeed. I could have handled more solos by Di and was particularly comfortable with Andy's Estuary English delivery - complete with the Jonathan Ross 'Rs'. Magpie Lane are a talented bunch of musicians playing concertina, melodeon, autoharp, bouzouki, guitar, cello, recorders, percussion, fiddle, whistles, flute, reed organ and bass guitar. The arrangements are very much influenced by the Hardy-esque west Gallery style and are skilfully and creatively executed with no sign of over rehearsal. The tunes which follow the songs like 'Fill the Tankard', 'The Ale Wife and her Barrel', and 'Stingo (Oil of Barley)' are smashing finds. I'm sure I shall be sourcing these tunes to learn myself.

So this is an album to sit back to, build up a thirst, and allow Magpie Lane to whet your whistle! The fingers slip around the handle of the tankard, the rim raised to the parched mouth and the first moustachioed sip - ta very much, and a big "up for Roy Palmer" whose masterly research first published this fine tasting cask into the beer cellar.

Tony Kendall

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This album was reviewed in Issue 43 of The Living Tradition magazine.