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Treewind Music TWD018

A perfectly good CD, but a somewhat misleading title I feel: this is from Cambridgeshire, after all. The last time anything hot came out of Cambridgeshire was Chariots Of Fire. And there are no airs to speak of - well, maybe one, and a waltz if that counts, unless you consider any melody to be an air of some sort. But I nit-pick, which is not my intention because there's a lot of enjoyable music on Hot Airs in any case.

Fendragon (not to be confused with Uther Fendragon) is a 4-piece dance band from the lowlands of England, playing a wide range of instruments suited to barndances, Playford evenings and occasionally funerals. They boast the considerable talents of two duos, melodeonist Anahata and accompanist Mary Humphreys, plus Dave and Gina Holland on strings and woodwind. Eleven of the tracks here are typical English dance music, drawn from various regional traditions including Cotswold morris tunes and even a Welsh hornpipe. They occasionally come in unusual versions - When Daylight Shines and Sadlor's Balloon aren't quite the settings I'm used to, for example - but when the band is on form they get my toes tapping straight away.

Toe-tapping may be frowned upon by the Playford fraternity, people fond of stately dances from the sedate seventeenth century. Fendragon don frills and frock coats for two Playford numbers: the classic Nonesuch / A La Mode De France combination and the dirge-like Childgrove with Anahata picking up a cello and Dave deftly doubling on hurdy gurdy for extra grind. The other slow tune here is Louis' Waltz, sadly straightened out and subdued in this rendition: compare Aly Bain's version. Tracks I particularly enjoyed include Tricky Dicky, Three Around Three and the livelier Shrewsbury Waltz. As the band say themselves, dancing to live music is always best - but if you have a need for Cambridgeshire dance music on CD, Fendragon is certainly worth a google. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 104 of The Living Tradition magazine.