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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Banquet Of Boxes: A Celebration Of The English Melodeon

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Banquet Of Boxes: A Celebration Of The English Melodeon
Mrs Casey Records  MCRCD1102

Instigated by Tickled Pink’s Simon Care and co-ordinated by Lioux Heap, Banquet Of Boxes is, as its subtitle suggests, a celebration of the English Melodeon, and a passionate and enticing work it is too.

Originally inspired by the 1986 album English Melodeon Players, which Care recognises as a major influence on his own development, Banquet Of Boxes is intended to be a similarly stimulating and influential album - presenting a number of the most vital and inspiring melodeon players around today. With an album devoting itself to a single instrument there is always the risk of limiting its audience but this really is an accessible, exciting and beautifully recorded album which illustrates the tenderness, sensitivity, dynamism and utter joy of the squeezebox in equal measures.

Banquet Of Boxes isn’t shy to acknowledge its past (as emphasised by the rather romantic cover art) and the dominance of traditional tracks reflects this. The vitality of the instrument’s future though is highlighted through the selection of new tracks (mainly waltzes, jigs and morris dance tunes) by Simon Bannister, Simon Care, Nick Cook, Matt Quinn, Ed Rennie, Simon Ritchie and John Spiers. Its difficult to pick out highlights on such a fruitful album but Spiers’ selection of hornpipes (kicking off with a sprightly version of George Green’s College Hornpipe) are particularly beautifully played as is Saul Rose’s tender Banks Of The Dee and Care’s own playful Last Of The Winter Wine Gums/Schottische de Catinaux/Shootin (aka the Beaux Of London City).

The range of musicians who took part in the project are first rate and emphasise the quality of today’s talented melodeon players; Simon Bannister & Cate Bannister, Mark Bazeley (with Rob Murch on banjo), Simon Care (with Will Pound on harmonica) Nick Cooke, Andy Cutting, Katie Howson, John Kirkpatrick, Dan & Matt Quinn, Ed Rennie, Simon Ritchie, Saul Rose and John Spiers all feature.

The love and sheer pleasure of the squeezebox is evident throughout and it’s clear that in the hands of these accomplished and fervent squeezers the box has a rich and vibrant future. Personally I’m already looking forward to the much hoped for Banquet of Boxes 2!

Billy Rough

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.