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SHOW OF HANDS - Roots, The Best of…

SHOW OF HANDS - Roots, The Best of…
Hands On Music HMCD28

I know I’ve not been alone in hoping that this duo would get around to gathering together a collection such as this.  Long overdue comes nowhere near describing it.  Here are two performers at the top of their game, nominated in two categories in the recent Folk Awards, past winners of Best Live Act in 2004, and capable of selling out the Albert Hall on occasions also!  Four tracks are specially re-recorded for this package, including a stunning new version of Are We Alright. The famous 22 minute long Tall Ships is also included, originally tape only, from the cassette of the same name sold at their early gigs – the seeds of the since honed SOH are germinated here with pride.  Steve Knightley’s progress as a songwriter of flair and substance can be charted over these two CDs, from the early club dates to the triumphant Roots (nominated at last year’s Awards, and considered a modern classic). 
The other bookend of this musical shelf, Phil Beer’s multi-instrumental prowess, is demonstrated perfectly throughout, and bids all comers to follow in the instrumentals – while being the perfect foil to Knightley on the songs.  Trad. highlight for me is Mary From Dungloe, a song by an Irish emigrant to the USA, which seems to have been one of several claimants to the parentage of The Lakes of Ponchartrain, but is easily as compelling as its descendant.  Here it is joined in happy matrimony with Ralph McTell’s tender song The Setting.  Stunning.  If there are any of you out there that need an introduction to this pair (quite possible North of the border, where they seldom perform), there is no more appropriate place to start than here.  The packaging is fab too, although I’ve not worked out why CD1 gets its lyrics included whereas CD2 doesn’t.  Who cares, it’s worth investing in for the music alone.
Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 78 of The Living Tradition magazine.