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Four Across  
Wildgoose Records WGS370CD

It would have been remiss if English Rebellion’s latest CD hadn’t found space for a couple of songs from band member Mary Humphreys (fine versions of Gypsy’s Wedding – which I’d not heard since Lincolnshire’s Broadside recorded it many years ago - and The Bonny Bunch of Roses-O, unusually set to Bampton Morris tune The Rose Tree).

Apart from these interludes Four Across comprises the sprightly mix of jigs, hornpipes and polkas, some from sources such as the Lawrence Leadley manuscript, some penned by the band’s Nick Barber (also responsible for the elegant, informative inlay notes), John Kirkpatrick or other contemporaries, which make this four-piece so in demand for ceilidhs and other social dances.  Of course, this isn’t the bass-heavy, brass-driven sound of Whapweasel or Hekety so familiar from Sidmouth Late Night Extras, more the sort of Flowers-blurred sun-drenched ambience of that same festival’s Anchor Gardens lunchtime ceilidhs. 

It’s always slightly difficult to assess music primarily intended for dancing divorced from the physical activity, but it helps that Humphreys, Anahata, Nick and Mary Barber have between them around a century of playing traditional instruments in various bands (fiddler Mary is also Deputy Leader of the Huddersfield Philharmonic).  It therefore scarcely needs comment that the technical aspects of their performance are (as far as I can tell) impeccable.  Doug Bailey of Wild Goose does his usual excellent job on balance and instrumental separation. 
It’s all gloriously English (in the best possible way) and a delight even if you don’t play melodeon, fiddle or concertina yourself. Or, possibly, even dance.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.