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MITCHELL & VINCENT - Circling The Square

MITCHELL & VINCENT - Circling The Square
Private Label

A great name for the second CD from this Devon-based duo, and like many things in life there are two ways to look at this recording. If you treat it as three English folk songs with some fiddle tunes in-between, it's a pleasant rendition of well-known material from the core folk club repertoire. High Germany, probably a Scottish song, introduces the voice of Graham Vincent and the fingerpicked guitar accompaniment of David Mitchell - both more than competent, if slightly understated. Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy is another familiar ballad of love and war, more firmly English, with slightly changed words here but still basically the Norfolk song popularised by the Copper family. Pleasant And Delightful is a third familiar ballad of love and war, this one probably known to every former English primary school pupil or folk club regular or Morris dancer over the age of 50. Usually sung as a rousing chorus number, with various in jokes, it's surprising to hear it in a much gentler and dead-pan version. The touches of guitar and fiddle melody around these songs, and the fiddle tunes between the songs, add variety to the CD, and the Scott Skinner air, Hector The Hero, is particularly enjoyable.

Looked at another way, Circling The Square is mainly dance music from Ireland, Scotland and England, played on fiddle and guitar, with three songs thrown in. The tunes are all common in session repertoires across England, and some would feature in Scottish or Irish sessions of a high standard. However, their performance here doesn't really do them justice - even the English jig Morgan Rattler falters in Vincent's hands, and the more demanding Maggie's Pancakes is a step too far for this pair. There are solid renditions of The Musical Priest, Tamlin and a couple of standard Irish jigs, but none of the dance tunes come to life. Hector The Hero is simplified but expressive, and this arrangement of The Lads Of Alnwick is another high point. For some reason, while Mitchell's song accompaniment is sensitive and convincing, his chords and rhythms don't fit the dance tunes nearly as well. If all you're really interested in is the songs, this duo is worth hearing and they do have a wider repertoire of English standards on their website. As far as the tunes go, Mitchell & Vincent have a lot of catching up to do if they want to rival the college-age accomplishments of English bands such as Granny's Attic or the Barber Sisters. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 119 of The Living Tradition magazine.