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No Masters Co-operative NMCD37

Chumbawamba’s Jude Abbott and Neil Ferguson worked on Jo Freya’s Lal Waterson Project and her solo album Female Smuggler and together they have been playing live as a trio recently. The empathy in their collaboration is very evident on this new issue from the Leeds based No Masters (Co-operative), to which they are all strong affiliates with an instinctive feel for its communitarian ethos and aim to celebrate and extend the tradition into new works, often exploring contemporary issues with a political edge.

There are new songs by Jo Freya, arrangements of traditional material and songs by others (including Lal Waterson and Christine Collins’ Piper’s Path, and XTC’s Andy Partridge’s Dear God), and a couple of instrumentals (re-workings of Bold William Brigg and Two Sisters). It offers the sort of eclectic engineering one might expect from musicians of their spirit and sensibility, melding melodies and sounds from a wide and colourful musical palette with a generally deceptive lightness of touch and much of that compelling catchiness so characteristic of Chumbawamba.

Lyrical skill is evident in the wry presentation of matters of contemporary angst and ancient fables of folk jeopardy. The musical mosaic interweaves the traditional and contemporary drawing on folk, jazz, classical, pop and other references. There are excellent hooks and harmony and skilful use of accordion and brass, in particular, for atmosphere, character and textural detail. Andy Cutting, Harry Hamer, and guitarist Belen de Benito provide instrumental support. However, there is no detail on who plays exactly what, either generally or by individual track. Indeed the accompanying booklet feels a little incomplete and thin in places; a minor peccadillo.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.