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PETE CASTLE - "Mearcstapa" - Steel carpet Music MATS022CD

Thirteen vocals, all well known English traditional, two instrumentals, one English, one Rumanian. Instruments that include guitar, doda, fiddle. accordion, whistle, pipes, flugelhorn, tuba and snare drum - not all used at the same time though. A subtitle of "English Music with a European Accent" sounds interesting and it is.

The notes inform us that Mearcstapa is an old English word that means "mark stepper where the marks are stones which show the boundaries". I think this is a perfect title for this CD which fuses English song with Rumanian instrumentation, especially Lucy's lovely fiddle playing. The tracks where the combination of Pete's vocals and Lucy's fiddle is to the fore work very well, giving a distinct "European" feel without losing the intrinsic Englishness of the lyrics. On the tracks where the songs are accompanied only by the guitar and the one unaccompanied track, the sound is unmistakably English.

Everything gels well on the two instrumentals and they dispel the slightly sombre feel produced by the songs as good as they are "Bruton Town", "Fanny Blair", Bitter Withy" etc are not jolly little numbers.

With the huge interest in World Music in general and East European Music in particular, "Mearcstapa" is, at just under one hour, a timely and enjoyable CD of English Music with a "European Accent" Recommended.

Danny Saunders

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.