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Fellside Recordings FECD262

Visiting the house of a friend of mine some 20 months ago, I asked him what was the name of the album he had playing away in the background. I found it totally arresting. And when he told me that it was The Queen's Lover, the debut album of a duo where the guitarist/vocalist was 19 and the outstanding fiddler was just 16 and still at school, I could scarcely take it in: it was such a mature delivery. The singer had the pitch-perfect voice of a 32 year old in his prime: and the fiddler seemed to exude a life experience of a skill finely-honed from a myriad music sessions in a million bars. But I did not just make a note of their names: I made an entry in my diary, so that one day I might look back on the day when I became first aware of the arrival into my consciousness of what would become a major new act on the Folk scene.

Seems like I was not alone in being bowled over. In 2013, the duo won the Young Folk Award, and a year later collected the Horizon Award, both at the BBC Folk Awards.

Now, I am of a vintage old enough to remember the way my pulse quickened when, nearly 44 years ago, I took my brand-new copy of The Rout Of The Blues out of its sleeve for the first time, and put it on the turntable to work its magic. I said as much, to my friend.

And no praise is higher for this follow-up second album, than to say that I was again reminded of Robin and Barry on several occasions here. And it really is not hyperbole gone mad. Yes, I realise it is almost akin to saying that a very good young footballer was the new George Best or next John Charles: but one cannot escape the truth that this duo have a world of promise unfolding in front of them.

With a crisp sound handsomely produced by Fellside, and with that label's customary attention to detail (how I appreciated their hugely informative liner notes leaflet), the album is a delight to the ear, from start to finish.

My particular favourites were, hearing that fine traditional song The Rose In June again (a song which has a mesmerising gravitas that somehow is greater than the sum of its parts); James Keelaghan's Cold Missouri Waters; and the best cut on the CD written by Ciaran's dad, Chris Algar (Away From The Pits). Also I was very taken by the sotto voce - but very sure - occasional harmony from Elly Lucas. She definitely added greatly to their version of Phil Colclough's The Call And Answer.

Let's hope she features on future Russell & Algar albums. Of which I am sure, there will be many.

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 103 of The Living Tradition magazine.