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The Portland Collection - Volume 2

BOOK: The Portland Collection - Volume 2
2005, ISBN 0-9657476-1-1

I'm impressed. This book of tunes manages to collect dance music from an enormous range of sources; gets nearly all the names and dots right, and gives notes on every single tune. It even indexes by key and form, as well as an alphabetical list. The musical score is printed large and clear, and suggested chord sequences are shown for every piece. I can't think of any other tune book which is so well put together. There are 324 pages, 300+ tunes

Subtitled "Contra Dance Music in the Pacific Northwest", The Portland Collection Volume 2 mixes American and European reels and jigs, including a large number of top quality tunes which I haven't seen written down before. Frank's Reel, Alice's Reel, Dedicado à Jos, Iggie and Squiggie, The Road to Glountane and Stan Chapman's Jig are all correctly attributed. Andy De Jarlis, The Tar Road to Sligo, Paddy's Trip to Scotland and many more are by unknown composers, but none the worse for that. Well-known reels such as The Otter's Holt or Da Tushkar are often thought to be traditional: here they carry the composer's name, and even notes on the origin of the title.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of North American tunes here. Some have already crossed the Atlantic: compositions by Liz Carroll and Jerry Holland, for instance. Others are less well known but immediately appealing: Stone's Rag, Le 24 Juin, Pete's Breakdown, and Equinox are just aching to be played. Still others are puzzling at first glance, but the companion CD reveals their character: Hey Little Girl and Walk Up Georgia Row come alive to the mandolin and fiddle of Susan and Clyde, joined by jobbing fiddler George Penk. There are bags of great North American names too: The Sewage Reel, The Long Hot Shower to go after it, French Canadian titles like La Péteuse or La Claqueuse, and even Swingin' in a Leisure Suit. Go figure.

It's worth noting that this is Volume 2. There was of course a Volume 1. Its contents are a little less contemporary, as it was published in 1997, but just looking at the C section there are still plenty of eye-catchers: Catharsis, Calliope House, The Convenience Reel and others. Same price, same website. Well worth a look, I'd say.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 70 of The Living Tradition magazine.