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KAREN TWEED & TIMO ALAKOTILA "May Monday" Fyasco Records FYCD003

Karen Tweed had discounted suggestions that she should record a solo CD, she says in the notes to 'May Monday', "because I dislike playing solos and felt I could offer little that hadn't been recorded thus far". Whilst being disarmed by her modesty (because there's a great deal that's new on offer here), one may reflect that Tweed has probably simply been too busy to get around to it. There's the work with The Poozies, SWP and Ian Carr, The Chase dance project, the currently-unnamed project involving musicians from Finland and JPP, a forthcoming CD with Andy Cutting and production of the new Bill Jones CD, 'Panchpuran'. When does she sleep?

If Tweed isn't keen on playing solos, you'd never know it. Admittedly, she has a little support from the musical friends encountered variously in Denmark, at Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival and in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The seminal meeting was at the Halkaerkro festival when she busked in a caf with Alakotila, a pianist of immense taste and sensitivity who was performing with Troka.

'May Monday' is a mind-blowing mix (with not a synth in sight!) of English, Irish and Scandinavian traditional material arranged by Tweed and Alakotila and compositions by the likes of Andy Cutting, Sarah Allen, Chris Wood, Ian Lowthian and Tweed herself. It is superbly produced by Olli Varis. There are elements of jazz and sometimes the sound is almost symphonic. The quality of the ensemble playing is exceptional, and the empathetic interplay of Tweed and Alakotila is reminiscent of the electricity which arcs between Hayes and Cahill or Wood and Cutting in performance. "May Monday" is folk music which needn't touch its forelock to anything the classical mob can put up; it's genuine art-music performed by a virtuoso at the height of her powers.

Dave Tuxford

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