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SPOIL THE DANCE - Northern Common

SPOIL THE DANCE - Northern Common
Spoilt Records STD009

Spoil The Dance has been playing together, mainly in the Sheffield area and across northern parts of the UK, for some years now, but as a trio comprising Steve & Gaynor Brook (guitar/bouzouki and voice respectively) and Charlie Smallwood (mandolin/mandola/guitar). Only now, however, with the recent recruitment of flute player Sally Gay, has the core trio been galvanised into committing its music to posterity via the take-home medium of CD. Northern Common is the result of their endeavours in the studio, and gives a convincing account of the musicians’ individual strengths in the signature context of the group performance.

The gentle interweaving of parts is apparent on a selection of pieces (nine songs and three instrumentals) which display a healthy knowledge of both traditional song and contemporary songs composed within the tradition, the latter principally consisting of settings by latter-day folk artisans of existing or recent poetry. Brian Bedford’s setting of Dorothy Una Radcliffe’s Daisy Song, for instance, or Beryl Graeme’s setting of Keith Scowcroft’s The Kissing Thorn, which complement Robert Tannahill’s Gloomy Winter’s Now Away and an agile, animated treatment of Venezuela. A definite disc highlight comes in the form of Anna Shannon’s magnificent Yorkshire Song, which is (deservedly) rapidly gaining currency on the folk circuit. The instrumental tracks sparkle with lively interplay and make for more than just convivial interludes in the song-centred programme of the rest of the disc.

Overall, the Spoil The Dance sound is an attractive blend of timbres, and it has now effectively customised itself, albeit to the degree that it might be thought a touch unvarying at times – I think this will both develop and settle in time, so for the time being Northern Common, accomplished though it is, might best be regarded as a confident, if slightly tentative, stepping stone to greater things. All proceeds from sale of this CD will be donated to local charities.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 109 of The Living Tradition magazine.