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Private Label FFC002 

KT Tunstall style riffs collide with a Bob Dylan mid-Atlantic drawl. The Far Flung Collective, essentially, is just that, a group of accomplished musicians who came together under the banner of an ongoing music education project between SoundStorm Music Hub, based in Bournemouth, and the University of the Highlands and Islands. Its modus operandi, which forms the main directive of the project, is to accentuate to school students “the joys of music making and the longstanding cultural diversity in the British Isles.” All very admirable in its scope, but by definition, full of pitfalls. Each track on this CD has its own identity which doesn’t necessarily relate to anything else on the album. That is not to say that the music is without expertise, far from it, the musicianship is always highly accomplished.

Much of the arrangement falls to Alex Roberts, aided and abetted by Dan Somogyi, who between them, provide guitar, percussion, harmonium, organ, ukulele and backing vocals. The contribution by the female backing vocalists, Mabel Duncan and Selina Clare Ross, who also provide the strings, cannot be underestimated. Their singing gives the work verve, like sparklers on a birthday cake, that lift the particular song they are employed on head and shoulders above the rest. For me, the stand-out track is the May Erlewine song, Afraid, superbly performed by Mabel Duncan. Given a sultry ‘soul’ treatment, the music wouldn’t be out of place on an Etta James compilation, backing vocals and all!

A CD that does what it says on the tin, a celebration of musical talent and creativity that, whilst in the main original, strays into influences beyond traditional music, whilst remaining in the ‘folk music’ category.

John Oke Bartlett


This review appeared in Issue 139 of The Living Tradition magazine