WHAPWEASEL - Pack Of Jokers
Whapweasel Music WW0006

Many readers will recall that this group of eight musicians picked up the ‘Best Dance Band’ award at the Radio Two Folk awards this year - a decade after they first got together. They've written all the instrumentals on 'Pack Of Jokers' (there's not a vocal within earshot), the music is hugely infectious, and the band's playing captures your attention straight away - these are great festival/dance tunes. Traditional melodeon-led arrangements jostle with calypso/reggae rhythms, and the band plays a wide range of instruments, from bass, melodeon, sax, and fiddle through to drums and electric guitar. It all sits nicely together to create a lively, full, playful sound, and the tunes are delivered with gusto.

The melodeon sounds almost innocently lyrical throughout the recording (melodeon player Robin Jowett has a hand in six of the album's compositions), and belies the catchy dance tunes that lie waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting listener. The tenor and soprano sax interludes from Stuart Finden and Fiona Littlewood are striking and, combined with the drum arrangements, bestow a reggae rhythm and contemporary edge to many of these tunes. Ex-Steeleye Span guitarist Rick Kemp's electric guitar playing is excellent throughout, blending well with the more acoustic instrumentation.

The album's big drawback for me is that there's not nearly enough variation in tempo, musical expressiveness and instrumentation. It's all effortlessly and beautifully put together, of course, but sometimes I find I can hardly distinguish one tune from another. It's a cracking dance album, though!

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 65 of The Living Tradition magazine.