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ALMA - Varieties

ALMA - Varieties
RootBeat Records RBRCD32

When three fine musicians come together under the banner, Alma, be assured that the end result will be worthy of note. Alma is made up of Emily Askew, John Dipper and Adrian Lever. Each and every one of them brings great understanding, skill and empathy to the music and no wonder, considering their respective backgrounds. All the tracks have been gleaned from a myriad of sources, from the tried and tested John Playford’s English Dancing Master of 1651 to tunes from Sweden, Tunisia and even Iraq. Despite the eclectic and diverse nature of the source material, such is the skill of the performers that the music has a unifying homogeneous theme and style throughout. Whilst all tracks are magnificent in their own right, no one track shines out above any of their counterparts. Perhaps this is a flaw in the work or perhaps not, certainly the instrumental virtuosity is a joy to listen to, but what do musicians of this quality and calibre do once they have mastered their craft? One can only assume they are destined to seek out even more tunes from more and more obscure places to treat in the same way.

There is nothing to fault the musicianship, but the title Varieties in one sense is misleading as the material, having been through the Alma mill, by default has ended up sounding similar in style despite its diversity. That said, this is a fine CD, especially if you are an instrumentalist, as you can marvel at the musical tonality and skill involved and be inspired to try and reach this standard yourself. On the other hand, if you already play as well as this trio, you can marvel that there is still so much undiscovered material out there and with this knowledge try and unearth some of it yourself. “There’s gold in them there hills!”

John Oke Bartlett

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