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GPJ Records GBNYM1100001-12

Multi-instrumentalist and instrument maker George Stevens has a taste for rhythm rather than melody which comes through on several tracks here. His music is all original, but in a folky rootsy style. The roots can be from Africa, Southern Europe, England or the Celtic fringe - or mix and match - and the instrumentation centres around Stevens' bouzouki and what we nowadays generally think of as French bagpipes. Stevens is joined by friends on fiddle, guitar, gurdy, keyboards and loops: he provides the percussion himself, and his arrangements are generally somewhere between eighties French music (La Bamboche, Melusine, Bleizi Ruz) and English outfits such as Blowzabella or Fotheringay. This is a sound I like, and while I can't yet say that any of Stevens' melodies are as memorable as Bransle Des Cheveaux or Spaghetti Panic, I did take to his jigs Mayfly and Grasshopper's Lament.

There's more of a Renaissance feel to Flint & Steel, an almost mediaeval earthiness to the Eastern-influenced Four Tree Hillock, and a positively indescribable melange of styles on the final Ryton Ruse. That French post-hippie vibe is particularly appealing on Sasha's Wedding with its intriguing rhythms. Rhythm is an important part of A Toad In The Hand, and it's perhaps easiest to appreciate this CD with the volume turned up to thumping level and the room just beginning to spin. By the way, Stevens' choice of album title is partly explained by the engaging cover photo. More details are available at which also has details of his modern and historical instruments: George Stevens crafts a wide range of lutes, harps, citterns and the like.

Alex Monaghan


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This album was reviewed in Issue 94 of The Living Tradition magazine.