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Private Label KQ001CD 

You can’t always tell with band names these days, but this quintet really does have five players. This, their debut album, took time to grow on me, but now I think it is, to borrow a phrase from the late John Peel, really rather remarkable - a proper example of a group that arrives on the scene with a fully-formed musical vision, allied to admirable technique.

The line-up is three fiddles (Laura Wilkie, Fiona MacAskill, and Aileen Read Gobbi, the latter playing a 5-string) plus Jenn Butterworth on guitar and Laura-Beth Salter on mandolin. None of the tune sets is traditional, band members having composed almost half; other composers featured include Ali Hutton and Alasdair White.

The opening track, Nonna Pina / Space Ghettos, gradually shifts towards more powerful rhythm parts while the fiddles play together, mainly in the lower register. Something of a showstopper, but not entirely typical of the album. Several tracks have much more spacious arrangements, some featuring the mandolin leading the melody. Wordless background vocals feature on Laura Wilkie’s tune, Toriah’s 50th, prompting memories of Lau’s The Burrian. Another number with vocals, the title track, is the one item that’s perhaps a little too far inclined towards the impressionistic side. One of the best pairings is Balfour Road / The Weatherman, with the former having a relaxed, slightly bluesy feel, switching to a stronger rhythm for the second tune. The fiddle sound on this track is particularly splendid.

All in all, this is a skilful and sophisticated first offering; the only question is whether the Quintet’s future work can match or improve on such a fine debut.

Paul Mansfield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.