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WHAPWEASEL "Relentless" CDWW005

Whapweasel is not a band to let the grass grow under their feet. Like the title of this new CD, they are indeed "relentless"! It's always good news when you see this frenetic English dance octet are gracing the dance marquee at the country's top folk and roots festivals. They write their own quirky and upbeat material and the new album is a wonderful melee of folk, rock, jazz and ska that will leave no foot untapped.

Legendary Steeleye Span guitarist Rick Kemp is the new kid on the block, augmenting the already strong line up of Robin Jowett on melodeon, Mike Coleman on cittern, Stuart Finden and Fiona Littlewood on saxophones, Brian Bell on bass, Bob Wilson on drums and Heather Bell on keyboards. They bamboozle you with different sounds and take you on a whistlestop tour of the globe conjuring up scenes from Henry VIII's palatial chambers to the mayhem of India, Thomas Hardy's Dorset, an Irish ceilidh and a Jewish bar mitzvah.. Jowett is a prolific music writer and his title track gets the album off to a medieval sounding start, thanks to Coleman's curious cittern sounds. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Finden co-wrote the feelgood track Badunga while Jowitt manages to inject the clamour of Bombay into the track Bus To Bombay with his own strong melodeon playing and some spicy saxophone.

I loved the wonderful high-stepping HT Polka - a creation of three band members - and the crashing crescendo of The Tinted Quiff - how do they keep coming up with these off the wall tune titles?! There's The Final Last Banana and The Sleeve in the Cheese, featuring great saxophone playing which then shifts into the stilted and defiant rhythms of Stonk and the kletzmer like Jessica's Welcome.

By the time listeners get to the end of the album they will have been on a roller coaster ride with the strangely named Beard Madam? featuring quirky notes from Stuart's tenor sax while The Ship has a more traditional Celtic feel. If you survive all the twists and turns of Whapweasel's wacky and surreal score you won't be able to stop grinning. Feelgood music rarely never felt this good!

Jane Brace

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.