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MOZAIK 'Live At The Powerhouse' Hummingbird Records HBCD0036

What a brilliant hour's listening this is - and, huge plus points, it's live! It's a dynamic collaboration of some of the acoustic roots world's finest players. Here's Andy Irvine and Donal Lunny (ex-Planxty) rubbing shoulders with excellent old time US fiddler Bruce Molsky. They've also teamed up with Hungary's Nikola Parov, whose tasty and varied instrumentation list had me reaching for the encyclopaedia, and also Dutch multi-instrumentalist Rens Van Der Zalm - both have worked extensively with Irvine.

The album was recorded in front of a very lucky Brisbane audience in March 2002 and was produced by Lunny. Irvine's sleeve notes tell you that the band had just a couple of weeks or so to rehearse these tunes and get the show on the road. They sound like they've been performing together for years! The sound is tight, infectious, with wonderful, panache-laden playing by all, and it's a joyous fusion of Irish, Appalachian and Balkan styles. It's an unabashed "string fest" to be honest, with bodhran, harmonica, reeds and vocals thrown in to complete your delight.

Impossible to pull out favourite tracks from this footstompingly enjoyable lot! The album gets underway in gloriously infectious Irish style with 'A Blacksmith Courted Me' and 'My Heart's Tonight In Ireland', Irvine's unique voice enveloped by an ocean of plucked and strummed strings. We then move on to a fabulous Aegean kopanitsa, played in 11/16 time. Molsky's old time style comes into its own on 'The Rocky Road to Dublin' and we move further East on the superbly spirited 'Romanian Hora'. The pace slows for 'Sandansko Oro', a beautiful tune written for Macedonian freedom fighter Yane Sandanski, with a fine vocal by Irvine. Molsky and Van Der Zalm duet on 'Pony Boy', and Irvine leads into 'Never Tire Of The Road' with some bluesy harmonica playing.

Molsky sings 'Field Holler Medley' unaccompanied, and his fiddle is accompanied by Parov's gadulka (a Bulgarian stringed instrument) in very fine style. The Balkan theme continues on 'Baneasa's Green Glade/Roumen Sirakov's Daichevo and on 'Smeseno Horo', both tunes displaying the astonishing musicianship of this band - the feel is very Eastern as instruments such as gadulka and kaval are brought to the fore. 'The Last Dance' features a stunningly enjoyable clarinet solo by Parov. I'd recommend this rip-roaring set to anyone who loves live roots music.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 58 of The Living Tradition magazine.