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Private Label LTCD9005

There must be an entertaining reason for the band’s bizarre name, but no clues are given on the CD sleeve - maybe next time?  There is nothing about the band’s individuals; maybe they prefer to allow the music to speak for itself?  Anyway, they are an “Irish” band based south of London, and this, their second CD, is admirable for sourcing at least some of its tunes from traditional performers such as Bobby Casey of Clare and London, as well as the Murphy’s of Wexford.

Having said that, although the standard of musicianship is high, with some good individual playing, they sometimes seem not to gel as a band.  This may be due to the modern preference for the tinkling bouzouki rather than the piano or guitar as a basis for any band attempting such music.

Val Marciandi has a good strong voice, as well as an obvious sympathy for the older ballads, well illustrated on the CD’s first track, The Newry HighwaymanLord Mayo is a modal tune in march time, commemorating a historical incident in 1872, and Birds And Bushes is a modern arrangement of Woody Guthrie’s words – the CD isn’t exclusively Irish!  I’d never heard these before, and although the Northumbrian pipe / concertina accompaniment was very tasteful, it was hard to pick out the words, despite Val’s strong and confident vocals.

The sleeve is well designed and the notes about the material are brief but adequate, although the most remarkable thing is that the four piece band are depicted as knitted dolls, complete with instruments – Val is apparently an expert knitter as well as a grand singer!  This kind of “Irish” music reaches a ready market, and no doubt the Toads can do an entertaining concert as long as they remember not to use those woollen instruments!

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 88 of The Living Tradition magazine.