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ANGELA USHER - The Gort Mile 

ANGELA USHER - The Gort Mile 
Banjaxed Records BR001 

From Manchester, Angela Usher has quite a story. Although principally on the periphery rather than centre stage, she has been instrumental in many musical success stories. A founder member of Toss The Feathers along with Desi Donnelly, Michael McGoldrick and Eddie Sheahan, she has also worked as a music teacher and some of her pupils will fuel the Mancunian traditional music fire in time. Along with this, she also had time to write a collection of her own tunes, and the backbone of The Gort Mile consists of self-written pieces. These show a marked respect for traditional tune styles and motifs and melodic cadences.

Her banjo playing has a lovely rhythmic strike to it, clear and distinctive, and her choice of tunes is equally based between popular oldies such as The Trip To Durrow and Thomond Bridge and more recent compositions, especially those of her own making - the opening set, The Love of Lucia, being a case in point here; a laid back treatment befits a melody borne of someone at ease with their music as well as themselves. Equally adept on whistles, mandolin, concertina and tenor guitar as well as her featured tenor banjo, she proves herself an able multi-instrumentalist, especially on Lollie’s waltz where the whistles, mandolin and tenor guitar prove a forceful combination – powerful but never overbearing, with Colin Farrell’s fiddle underscoring beautifully. Her daughter Grainne Durcan excels on the sole vocal track (Stevie Nicks’s Landslide learned from a Dixie Chicks recording) which incongruous though it sounds on paper, in practice within the context of this recording works perfectly, benefitting from the spare treatment doled out to it. The atmosphere throughout is relaxed and laid-back which gives the music a homely organic feel, helped by Michael McGoldrick’s sympathetic production. The Gort Mile is the music of a woman at peace with herself, her music and creational abilities, and its all the better for that.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.