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ALBIREO Northern Cross

ALBIREO Northern Cross
Flying Swan Records CYG001

Albireo are an experienced Manchester / Cheshire ceilidh band, and it has taken them a few years to get round to releasing this, their first CD.  My initial reaction is “what took you so long?”

The band comprise Tom Kitching, fiddle, mandolin; Howard Jones, melodeon, Anglo concertina, hammered dulcimer, recorder; Steve Hodgskiss, piano, English concertina; Peter Crowther, bass, keyboard; and Sean Bechhofer, guitar.  They produce an overall sound which very clearly retains its English roots, but at the same time is fresh, gutsy and attention-grabbing.  This is achieved to a large extent by a powerful, though never overwhelming, back line which concentrates on the rhythmic side, allowing the squeezeboxes and fiddle to explore the melodic side.  In amongst all the top-class playing all round, there are some particularly fine bits of bass, an instrument which is often relegated to the minor leagues, but here is up-front and adds an extra depth and interest to the overall ensemble.

The tunes are mostly English traditional, but there is a scattering of original numbers, and a few from further shores, all of which are given the Albireo treatment and come out fresh and vibrant. The American set of Arkansas Traveller / Bill Cheatham’s Reel / The Kitchen Girl for example fairly zips along in such a way that you have to check and see which side of the Atlantic you’re on, especially as it follows a Henry Purcell hornpipe from 1698 which is as stately as you would expect.

As well as being a ceilidh band who would be great to dance to, Albireo have made an album in which every track is worth listening to in its own right. Although I’m writing this review in January, this is already down on my “CD of the year” list.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 91 of The Living Tradition magazine.