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FINEST KIND "Silks & Spices" Fallen Angle Music FAM 05

I already have two albums by this trio from Canada, both of them delightful, so I expected something good from this one. I got it!. Finest Kind have scored a hat trick with a skilfully sung programme of songs ranging from the Copper Family to the Shirelles via Marty Robbins, Bob Dylan, and others.

Finest Kind comprise founder-member Ian Robb, English-born singer and concertina player; Ann Downey, American singer/banjo/guitarist, and Canadian folklorist Shelley Posen, singer and multi-instrumentalist. Each one brings something of their individual taste to the repertoire though they do not mix their album material for the sake of variety alone. Their choices seem to me to be well thought out on the basis of creating a balanced, varied, and enjoyable experience for the listener. Not as common as one might think.

The bulk of the songs on this particular album are from English tradition, sung unaccompanied. If that sounds daunting to any of you let me tell you that what you hear here is, in my opinion, the way to sing these songs. The harmonies are close without being cloying, the keys fresh and lively, and the pace chosen for each song is exemplary. All those groups who drag a mournful way through their songs should listen to the way Finest Kind attack theirs. No dirges, no "slowing down to lethargy", but a tempo that allows the text to shine through without losing scope for appropriate harmonising. Furthermore, and top marks in my book, the melody is always clearly defined no matter what clever harmonies are going on.

Each one of the singers is a good soloist, very good actually, and where instruments are used they add to the whole without intrusion. Guest musician James Stephens deserves a tip of the hat for his work on fiddle, mandolin and viola. Rather than picking out individual items I simply recommend every track on this joyous album. Finest Kind sound like they are enjoying their singing. They give me the feeling that they would sing with as much zest in my kitchen as they might on some lofty concert stage. I like them, and 'Silks & Spices' very much. Lady and Gents, please come over here as soon as possible.

Roy Harris

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This album was reviewed in Issue 54 of The Living Tradition magazine.