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ROOT & BRANCH - A Breath Against The Calm 

ROOT & BRANCH - A Breath Against The Calm 
Private Label RABR02 

Root & Branch’s debut album follows a well-received EP from 2015. The wait has been worth it. The five members of this bold yet thoughtful band are from both sides of the Atlantic, and they concentrate on interpreting the traditional music of Britain, Ireland and the Appalachian Mountains. With eight tracks spread over 47 minutes, they give us time to relish the tunes and songs.

There is impressive firepower with fiddle and guitar from Nathan Bontrager, more fiddle from Ewan Macdonald, bouzouki and percussion from Stuart Graham, cello from Jess Whelligan and banjo, concertina, mandola and mandolin from Chris Jones I didn’t take to Nathan’s Cathar Rag, but enjoyed the other sets of tunes: the three reels of Big John’s Daughter, the three Scottish jigs of Shputnik (including one by the much-missed Martyn Bennett), and The Barndance (Dornoch Links), in which a pipe march goes old-timey. Impromptu dancing took place.

The vocals are shared. Jess sings a waltzy Hares On The Mountains. Nathan sings a moving Appalachian version of Young Hunting. Stuart Graham sings The Dalesman’s Litany (words by F.W. Moorman, lyrics by Dave Keddie) which is slipping nicely into the tradition. To bring us up to date, Stuart’s The Road To Germany is inspired by the refugee crisis. All the songs are well arranged.

There’s masses of talent here. I’d guess that Root & Branch is a fine live band, and I hope I can confirm this somewhere down the road.

Tony Hendry

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This album was reviewed in Issue 127 of The Living Tradition magazine.