Link to Living Tradition Homepage





CD sleeve not available
Nancy Kerr and James Fagan "Between the Dark & Light" Fellside FECD167

Nancy Kerr's mother, Sandra Kerr, has been one of my favourite singers for over 30 years: she is an acclaimed songwriter to boot. Ron Elliott, Nancy's father, was the most creative Northumbrian piper I have heard in the flesh. So, one might think, what chance of success in this particular musical milieu for daughter Nancy? On the evidence presented thus far, and based on this most impressive CD, the answer must be an emphatic "Every" (That, I hope, secures the O.B.N. for me!)

Nancy sings and plays fiddle, viola and guitar. Her Australian partner, James Fagan, sings and plays guitar-shaped bouzouki, and piano. There are sundried contributions on this album from Sandra Kerr on concertina and backing vocals, Tim Van Eyken on melodeon and Alan Burton on uilleann pipes. This album is a mix of traditional and recently composed songs with several sets of tunes. It is a delightful assortment of fascinating material varying in light and shade (truly reflecting the album title), and reflects the duo's considerable singing prowess and outstanding musicianship.

Nancy's songwriting contribution ranges in breadth from the tone poem-like Tiller Song which creates a series of intriguing watery vignettes (dedicated to all who work on the water) to the haunting Tiburon, a tale of a mythological Hawaiian 'Sule Skerrie-like-creature, who preyed on female swimmers. Nancy combines two variants of Dance to Your Daddy with some success, and contributes two further songs The False Young Man and Strawberry Town. She is a very fine singer and is her own woman in this respect. How very refreshing it is to hear a young singer - indeed two young singers - who respect their respective traditions as opposed to the plethora of those who plagiarise effete contemporary singing styles.

James Fagan leads on three songs. Poet Henry Lawson's The Outside Track alludes to those with whom he wrote for Sydney's Bulletin newspaper. The Drover Boy, written by Ted Egan, is a poignant song about virtual sex-slavery, as practised in the 'pioneering' Australian outback. The song is a sad but true reflection of the virtual apartheid that has blighted Australian colonial history. Kelly's Farewell recounts putative outlaw Ned Kelly's unequivocal farewell to his sister Kate, prior to his death. Fagan's singing is very impressive throughout the album. Just one gripe however: I do not understand the function of the 'lah lahs' at the end of The Drover Boy. Whereas nonsense 'fol de rol' type refrains can help to drive songs along, I'm not convinced of the efficacy of 'lah lahs'.

The tune selections flow effortlessly from the accomplished Kerr fiddle. James' own composition, The Wire Bender, steals the show in this department. The accompaniment is perhaps over-exuberant in places, but it seems curmudgeonly to nit-pick so.

This is an excellent, beautifully balanced album. It is well produced with just enough liner note information. It is fit to grace the most discerning listener's collection.

Donal Maguire

Secure On-line mailorder service Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 49 of The Living Tradition magazine.