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Wet Foot Music WFM160630

One thing it can be very useful to have when you set up shop in the crowded market place that is folk music is a unique sound. Until the nyckelharpa becomes a lot more popular in this country, Swan and Dyer should remain instantly recognisable for their blend of British and Swedish roots. That hallmark instrument, more than anything, is what gives this enjoyable duo their exotic edge. Vicki Swan plays a lot more than that – including three nationalities of bagpipe – but it is the bowed mega-fiddle that commands the attention.

Almost extinct in the 1950s and re-invented in its modern form in the 1970s, the nyckelharpa is enjoying a new lease of life – largely due to these two. The good news, which has now sustained them through seven albums, is that it is not only suited to playing Swedish tunes but has an affinity with British folk-song and music as well. Witness their Scandinavian take on Speed The Plough, spliced into a Wedding Suite, for instance, or a version of Daddy Fox that starts unaccompanied and broadens out into a reel on a variety of their van-full of instruments.

Their singing (particularly that of Jonny Dyer) should not be underestimated. Where they don't much like a melody, they press a new one into service and they are adept at making it sound like it has always been there. The Golden Glove, for example, comes up bright and shiny with a new treatment.

I'm tempted to say that you only get the full impact of Swan and Dyer live, because their act is so visual. The little silver disc does pretty well at capturing it, though - you will just have to imagine the nyckelharpa.

Dave Hadfield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.