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THREE PRESSED MEN "Plain English" Steam Age Records 005-2

You get four men and six concertinas for the price of three here; explanation given in the informative notes to their second CD. It includes nine songs as well as some original imported and Morris tunes, while the intro to The White Hare of Howden" is worthy of the Animals (I always said it was a Geordie song) and the Pressed Men's version has a deliberately bluesy feel, including alto sax. An immediate contrast is "Lavenders Blue" (are we having an Owen Brannigan revival?), but well-done lads, for the concertina and with many more words than appear in the "Northumbrian Minstrelsy".

Some of the musical tracks are a little lacking in spark, an exception being "The Orange in Bloom" and "Sweet Jenny Jones", which are unusually, Morris tunes in waltz time with a jokey coda of that old Roman music-hall favourite "Quantum Est Ille Canis in Fenestram" (this is an Oxford band - ok?). Sorry, lads, but my dog didn't like it; she doesn't like reed instruments, including mine, so don't take offence. Sydney Carter is a seriously neglected English songwriter - he didn't only write "Lord of the Dance" (no apologies to Michael Flatley, who nicked the title). Two typically thought provoking Carter songs are here, about obscure figures in English history. First there's "Julian of Norwich", a 14th century visionary and then George Fox, a founder of the Quakers, Carter's song being largely reconstructed from Fox's own words and sympathetically performed here.

Full marks for variety on this CD and adding to a distinctly eclectic mix are "Northfield", a shape note hymn, a harmony arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael's classic "Lazy Bones" and a strangely subdued version of John Tams' normally rousing "Rolling Home". This is a "Plain English" CD but not in the prevalent "English Country" style; there's a rather "proper" feel to this production; it's impact being somewhat low key, possibly because of the Men's classical approach? I must admit I'm not a fan of massed reed instruments (nor is my dog) so this CD was a pleasant surprise in its thoughtful and well-produced arrangements and worth a listen as a representation of Three (no, four) Pressed Men.

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 42 of The Living Tradition magazine.