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MATT QUINN & OWEN WOODS - Unaccustomed As We Are 

MATT QUINN & OWEN WOODS - Unaccustomed As We Are 
Hebe Music HEBECD010 

An album-full of scintillating squeezery from two gifted exponents. Owen’s a melodeonist based near Durham, while Matt’s larger-than-life presence currently graces The Dovetail Trio. Listening to the tight musicianship on this (ironically titled) disc, it’s obvious Matt and Owen have been playing together for years, and yet this, their record debut, was instigated by the gradual discovery of a whole group of dance tunes that fitted their mutual style. Owen sees this as a key opportunity to return to the dance idiom in which he started out in folk music.

The glorious sound of melodeon and concertina playing together may not be unique to this duo (Mary Humphreys and Anahata spring to mind, but Matt and Owen admit to taking their own cue principally from the partnership of Matt’s father Dan with Will Duke); however, it’s Matt’s speciality, the duet concertina, that gives the Quinn-Woods duo its individuality. There’s a pronounced empathy between the two musicians, not least in the way they approach the arrangement of their chosen tunes – which, as Owen outlines, “starts with the tune and grows organically outward, never losing sight of where we started”.

While English tunes form the core of the CD’s menu, Matt and Owen also play examples from Quebec, Estonia and Norway, and even four tunes of their own composition. Well-sprung rhythms, keen observance of balance and dynamics and a keen sense of humour are signature features of the duo’s playing on this irresistible album. For – again quoting Owen himself – “these are just good tunes and are such a pleasure to play”; that pleasure is unerringly communicated through this recording by producer Tom Wright, who has certainly captured the musical personalities of the protagonists. And as listeners to this disc will immediately observe, hearty endorsements from fellow-squeezers Spiers and Boden are richly deserved.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine