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KEVIN MADDEN - The Sugar Loaf

KEVIN MADDEN - The Sugar Loaf
Private Label

Kevin Madden is part of the Manchester / London Irish music scene and is a fine fiddler, having won several All-Britain titles and the senior All-Ireland title in 1996. With a background of extensive playing in ceili bands over the years, this influence has passed into his solo playing, creating a very distinct traditional and disciplined style. On this, his debut solo album, he is joined by several other instrumentalists to create a very pleasing traditional fiddle album.

The Sugar Loaf could be described as an album of two halves. One half is very ceili band in style with fiddle and vamped piano, though is slightly softer round the edges than some ceili band music. The tunes are well-paced and perfectly made for dancing. The other half of the CD contains tune sets that are in a more general, accompanied fiddle style – music for the ear rather than the feet, though you can still hear the control that years of playing for dancing brings.

Amongst several other musicians, Kevin enlists the help of Tim Edey on guitar for a few tracks, and the set of polkas they play together shines. Fellow Manchester Irish players Mike McGoldrick and John Joe Kelly join him for tunes too, though their playing is very subtle, almost understated, allowing the fiddle to shine up front, just where it should be.

The sets are neatly arranged according to their type – jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas – and they stay in separate sets rather than being arranged to run from one type to the other as is often the case in arranged sets. Again, this is perhaps the influence of the dance, but it adds to the feel of an album that is firmly focused on playing good tunes well, rather than worrying about fancy arrangements and clever changes.

Good honest music and sweet playing – there is a lot to like here.

Fiona Heywood

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This album was reviewed in Issue 103 of The Living Tradition magazine.