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BANTER - Dare  

BANTER - Dare  
Mrs Casey Records MCRCD9102  

There are many interesting things about this release: the dot-band domain is a new one to me, but Mrs Casey Records is a real blast from the past of English folk - Eliza Carthy & Nancy Kerr, the Cock and Bull Band, and more recently Merry Hell have recorded on this cottage label. Such a contrasting combination of old and new suits Banter, an English dance and concert band who cap their second CD with a cover of the Police hit, Roxanne. The surprises don't start there. Dare is roughly divided between melodeon tunes, maritime ballads and modern songs from bruising protest to bluesy jazz.

Nina Zella's vocals are perhaps the most striking thing about this album - strong, confident, clear and accurate, with a wide range of pitch and expression. The lyrics are a little rushed at times, and her songs are too insistent to be easy listening, but if you're in the mood they hit home hard. Behind the singing are solid percussion from Tim Walker, imaginative melodeon backing from Simon Care and Nina's accomplished keyboards. Kill the vocals, and maybe substitute brass for beaters, and Banter becomes a pumping English folk trio in the footsteps of Umps & Dumps or Old Mole. Care keeps things funky, and there are contemporary touches like scat singing or ambient soundscapes, but the more folky tracks are based on well-known session tunes from deepest Melodeonland: Harpers Frolic, Bonny Kate, Johnny Goes To France, One More Dance And Then, all likely to be encountered at any English ceilidh. The arrangements of Candlelight Fisherman and Strike The Bell with male lead vocals are perhaps the most traditional part of Dare. When I saw this trio live, the material was a little more traditional than here, but I was still struck by their big sound; it seems they can extend that larger-than-life performance to a wide range of music, on the dance floor or the concert platform. 

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 129 of The Living Tradition magazine