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Private Label SS001

Based around fiddler Colin Grant, this Cape Breton quintet mixes reels with reggae, jigs with jazz - and you don't want to know what they do to polkas! Most of the tunes here are the band's compositions in something akin to the Nova Scotia idiom: the driving Gillian Jigs, the Mabou Pizza Boy banjo breakdown, the low whistle air Sleepless. Don't be surprised if Sprag Session suddenly stick a drums'n'bass back line under the melody, or switch from standard reel tempo to a slow ska rhythm on the gorgeously titled Gwanwitcha.

There's a lot of fun, a lot of freedom, and a fair amount of serious creativity in this album. The funky 10/8 fantasy Digsy's is an instant favourite, one of several compositions by keyboard king Jason Roach. The darker mood of S'Nice-a-Tron throws the fluffy stuff into sharp relief. Jenn & Anthony's is a wedding waltz by Colin Grant, the band's other prolific tunesmith, and shows a gentler side of the Sprags before their big finish on a pair of biting tunes by members of Lau.

Comparisons are onerous, but there are bits of everything in here, from Madness to Mouth Music, Wolfstone to Western Swing. Think Slainte Mhath without the pipes. No - think Omnia with a demon fiddler. Better still, think outside the pigeonholes, as these lads turn their talents to primal Breton dances, growling reels, riffs and rolls, licks and loops, and just occasionally create a moment of perfect beautiful calm. Google, poke or tweet spragsession - there's only one - to discover this intriguing new approach to Cape Breton fiddle music and more.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.