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THE BOAT BAND A Trip To The Lakes: Traditional Cumbrian Tunes

A Trip To The Lakes: Traditional Cumbrian Tunes
Harbourtown Records HARCD047

The Boat Band are a Cajun outfit, whose love of "pushing the envelope" has seen many shades of musical inflection make that short definition redundant. Not least this album. Cumbrian tunes are quite a contrast to music from the Louisiana swamps! The band are a four-piece and, despite boasting (?) three melodeon players, tend to only have one of the squeezers playing at a time with banjo, guitar, fiddle and very inventive percussion making their presence felt.

The tunes are indeed from Cumbria, mostly unfashionable and virtually all absolute belters. Many come from the manuscript of William Irwin of Great Langdale, but also include material from other musicians of the area. The tune sets are all given really thoughtful arrangements, not "big production" arrangements, but sparky, unusual and quirky treatment which makes you prick up your ears and which almost without exception produce performances which do the tunes proud.

There are a couple of songs, neither of which show either the singer or the song at their best (I suggest getting hold of the original source recordings re-issued as 'Pass The Jug Around' on Veteran Records VT142CD ). And the booklet! A12-page biography of William Irwin, superbly researched, eminently readable and an important piece of scholarship. All this and, if you're the first person to photograph yourself at the location of the cover illustration you might win a bottle of whisky! To paraphrase Irwin's son's comment on his father: "A really first-rate country record".

Paul Burgess

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This album was reviewed in Issue 68 of The Living Tradition magazine.