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LANDERMASON - Me, Him And The Can Crusher

LANDERMASON - Me, Him And The Can Crusher
Lama Records LAMA007

For those not yet in the know, Landermason comprises Northumberland-based Fiona Lander and Paul Mason, who have been making music together for around ten years now and gradually gaining an increasing, well-deserved reputation for their supremely classy, polished, professionally executed, inventively scored and distinctive music that smoothly, and yet entirely satisfyingly, straddles the difficult boundary twixt folk and jazz, with occasional nods to world flavours. All of which they manage without ever descending into self-conscious pretension – and that’s even more of a difficult trick to pull off.

So far they’ve released four studio albums, the latest two of which have particularly succeeded in reaching the parts that traditionally-inspired folk and less traditionally-inspired crossover have alike failed to reach. The more extended interval between Tree Of Souls and Can Crusher has been well utilised, allowing for even more generous experimentation with instrumental textures than we’ve a right to expect from the two protagonists and their many-times-proven, enviably high degree of expertise and accomplishment. Much of Landermason’s special appeal, of course, stems from the duo’s unusual (for folk) brand of instrumental virtuosity – Fiona being brilliant on piano and an impressive array of saxes, clarinet, whistles and recorders, and Paul stunningly proficient on anything guitarry, not to mention their great vocal talents too…

The new disc’s canny sequence transports us from a quite literally unique take on the traditional Geordie Song Book number The Shoemakker, with some especially scintillating scoring, through a suitably energising (and energised) Bellingham Stomp (the first of four well contrasted instrumental tracks) and the epic narrative The Bywell Baby (based on the dramatic story of Mary Leighton who miraculously survived the great Tyne Valley storm and flood of 1771). Although there are some equally fine moments later on the CD, I did note that from midway through, following the sumptuous sketch of Kielder Water, the mood lightens generally, with the emphasis definitely more on fun and toe-tapping – not necessarily a bad thing, for Fiona and Paul are such dab hands at the fleet-of-foot! The musical genres tend also to be more polarised here, with the jazzier tracks determinedly keeping to that groove for however long it takes (in the case of Baby Can I Watch You Sleeping, that’s seven delectable minutes of swing, Dixie and gypsy ebullience!). And both the uke-happy Hey! Mr Weatherman and the title song’s jaunty funk have delicious charms that will be loathe to desert you.

OK, so inevitably there’s also the odd artistic decision that I might disagree with (some over-prominent, possibly misplaced atmospheric effects, a smidgen of over-knowing expression here or there), but in the main Landermason once again prove their imagination, their tastefulness and their natural ability to hook their audiences in and keep them enchanted and involved throughout their performance, here in the studio just as live in concert.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 96 of The Living Tradition magazine.