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MICK & SARAH GRAVES - The Greg Trice Tune Book

MICK & SARAH GRAVES - The Greg Trice Tune Book
Private Label MSG014

This is the sixth CD of English dance music which I've reviewed in short order. I'm not sure what the world is coming to. The first five were dance bands, but The Greg Trice Tune Book is a little different, as you can probably tell from the title. There are 14 of Greg's compositions here - one is played twice - and each tune gets a track to itself. Trice was a pianist and concertinist who was part of the Essex folk scene in the seventies, when most of these tunes were written. He died in 1993 after playing with Mick and Sarah in various guises and the rediscovery of his manuscript book in 2006 prompted this recording.

Mick plays mainly fiddle, plus mandolin, banjo and various bangables. Sarah plays English concertina throughout, and dabbles. Colin Heaviside provides piano accompaniment and occasional melody, partly as a tribute to the keyboard skills of the late lamented Mr Trice. This instrumentation suits Trice's tunes, as frankly most people would struggle to play them on a two-row melodeon or Anglo concertina. More fairground than folkdance, more music hall than Morris, most of this material requires a chromatic instrument. Greg Trice played fast and loose with key changes and mixed modes, not to mention deliberate accidentals. One moment Wellesbourne Walltz is dancing demurely down a Warwickshire lane in the key of G, and the next moment it's off for an augmented stroll in the Vienna woods. Boiled Parsnips quite brazenly modulates from A major to F# minor, and as for Farewell To Sidmouth with its romantic chord progressions, all I can say is it's a good job it left when it did. You might get away with Tindal Trot or Puddleduck Polka in a session, and Custard & Chips is a delicious minor hornpipe with not too many mutinous moments, but don't even think about scaling Danbury Hill without plenty of ligatures and some very good bridging work.

There are classical overtones here too, it seems: a touch of Chopin about The Golden Frosty Drop and definite Brahms & Liszt inspiration for The Shit House Door. The opening slow version of The Endeavour is a beautiful air and Campion Hill provides a perfect jig for those jiggy English dances that require a really jiggy jig. Leaving Maldon Harbour is another good solid hornpipe and the musical liberties taken in Clever Clogs just about fit within the Shetland fiddle mood adopted for it on this recording. Mick and Sarah's arrangements are interesting and varied and Colin plays piano to great effect. Greg Trice's music is enjoyable, as well as challenging both in the listening and the playing, so I wonder how much it will be picked up and recorded. The written version would be most welcome for some of us: perhaps that will come in time.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.