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KING COLE - Fiddlers Three

KING COLE - Fiddlers Three
Hooky Mat Records

This debut album from Paul Knox, Ruth Ball and Kevin Lees gives us spirited, straight up fiddle playing mixed with the occasional quirky song. The tune repertoire mostly reflects their North East background and they first got together for Paul and Ruth’s final assessments for the University of Newcastle’s folk and traditional music degree. Don’t groan. Graduates of that course do much to swell an increasingly crowded market, but these three have plenty of spark to make a mark.

Sets like Peacocks March, Patchwork Polka and Glakey Hornpipe are full of wit and bounce and flourish. Paul lays down his fiddle and picks up the Northumbrian pipes for the Whinham’s Reel set. Kathy Anderson’s piano accompaniment also adds variety on several tracks. The tight musicianship is enhanced by crisp production by Anthony Robb, a veteran of the Northumbrian music scene whose Windy Gyle Band album I reviewed a while back.

Did I say quirky back then, to describe the songs? Lazy word. Paul’s singing is so far from the middle of the road he’s in the hedgerow picking the blackberries. If you’ve never heard John Prine’s Lets Talk Dirty In Hawaiian delivered in broad Geordie with ukelele accompaniment, this is the album for you. As for The Lancashire Hotpots’ I Fear Ikea… we’ve all been there.

On aural evidence alone, I’m sure that King Cole is a cracking live band who deliver foot taps and fun in equal measure. The skimpy, tongue-in-cheek liner notes speak of their captivating repartee. But none of the tunes and songs is their own composition. That’s something they may need to address if they really want to break out of their regional stronghold and go for World Domination. If they would like to invade neighbouring Czechoslovakia – sorry, make that Cumbria – that would be fine and fitting. After all, some people think that the King Cole of legend held court in my adopted home city of Carlisle.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 98 of The Living Tradition magazine.