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BANTER - Three 

BANTER - Three 
Mrs Casey Records MCRCD1202 

For me, this album evoked memories of Steeleye Span – not just because Banter has a female vocalist with a magnificent voice, but also because of their self-confessed tendency to “mess about with the songs”. Take the first track, for instance: The Copper Family’s gently rolling The (Honest) Labourer becomes a power-driven speed-jig reminiscent of the Grateful Dead’s The Other One. I defy anyone not to at least tap a foot to this – or even start doing high kicks on the nearest table-top. Similarly, a variant of Waly Waly, titled Gathering Flowers, is given an up-tempo jazz swing treatment worthy of Nina Simone, while The Unquiet Grave gets recast as a fast reel – and Simon Care’s melodeon gets a real work-out.

Home Sweet Home is one I can readily imagine Maddy Prior dancing to. It’s adapted/rewritten by Nina Zella, from a translation of the Winchester school song, Domum, Domum, Dulce Domum. It’s not just that it’s done so well, it’s that it’s done at all. What inspiration made her turn to that unlikely source to generate this fine, uplifting song?

That they’re perfectly capable of doing straight trad is apparent at the opening of The Gloucester Hornpipe, just before that turns into a spirited exercise in jazz syncopation bearing distinct overtones of Sonny Rollins – all credit to Tim Walker for that lilting horn part. Tide A’ Flowing similarly starts as pure folk before moving on to a percussion-driven improvisation that really shows off the band’s skills.

“Trad goes visiting the relatives” would be one way of summing up this lively and invigorating release. At its heart, yes, it’s folk. But these folk go down many an eclectic byway in the course of this highly enjoyable musical journey.

Bob Leslie


This review appeared in Issue 140 of The Living Tradition magazine