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The Easy Club "The Easy Club" Greentrax CDTRAX205
Peatbog Faeries "Faerie Stories" Greentrax CDTRAX214

At first glance these two CDs may appear to be at different ends of the musical spectrum, however they do have three important things in common. Firstly the record company, Greentrax, once again showing their diverse approach to marketing Scottish music across a broad spectrum. Secondly they are both timely re-issues with the Peatbog Faeries album gaining near legendary status since its limited (1000 copies only) Internet release nearly 18 months ago. Lastly, and possibly most important is that they have both stretched the boundaries of their musical style, offering a host of new possibilities to aspiring musicians from all walks of life.

I do try to use the word classic sparingly, yet every so often an album is released worthy of the moniker. So here goes… The Easy Club is unreservedly a classic. Described by the band as Scottish Rhythm and Swing this album is a delight from beginning to end. To take a standard such as Dirty Old Town and not only give it a different slant but an entirely new emphasis is the product of a fertile imagination. Throughout the CD they continue to delight by fusing Scots folk and jazz as if they'd been a happy blend since the dawn of time. Try to imagine Cole Porter writing the music for a series of Burns' ballads and you're almost there.

Coupled with the inventiveness of the arrangements is the skill with which they are played. A line-up featuring Rod Patterson - vocals/guitar; John Martin - fiddle; Jim Sutherland - cittern/bodhran/percussion and Jack Evans - guitar, collectively represents some of the most gifted traditional musicians of their generation. Although this album was recorded during the summer of 1984 it's accurate to say that the music produced during those sessions hasn't lost any of its appeal during the intervening years. I have a feeling that The Easy Club will remain fresh and relevant for some years to come.

By contrast and clearly influenced by Martyn Bennett's recent legacy are the Peatbog Faeries, with this CD they have stamped their place at the forefront of Celtic cool territory. Musically Faerie Stories is light years apart from their 1996 debut album Mellowosity. Gone is much of the dub style percussion and reflective tonality, in favour of more stirring urban styled rhythms. I don't have a problem with technology in traditional music as long as it's done with both character and respect. Two attributes these six gentlemen from Skye have in abundance.

Full of pulsating rhythms that are often purely the domain of Radio One on any chosen Friday night, this album gives the Celtic youth of today an opportunity to identify with their birthright. With no songs on the CD the band have ample chance to let the music speak for itself. Tunes such as 'The Little Cascade' and the 'Cameron Rant' are given a totally new vibe, often sounding a million miles from a solo piper at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle. Yet there's a constant and positive feeling when listening to the album that this is no more than a modern interpretation of traditional content. Not an irreverent swipe at folk values.

Both releases may be aimed at totally different audiences, but strangely, in my humble opinion connected by the fact that they are offering the listener a slightly different view from what may be seen as the conventional.

Keith Whitham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 44 of The Living Tradition magazine.