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English Fiddle CD01

Nick and Becki are two young fiddle players who share a strong interest in the traditional music of South-west England; as well as working together as a duo, Nick has played with folk-rock band Sacred Turf then latterly with Devon band Jiggerypipery, while Becki has appeared with Anglo-Asian fusion outfit the Angel Brothers. The Calling is their first full-length duo recording (their debut Bridge Over The River Brit being but a five-track EP); it presents Nick's arrangements of a host of traditional tunes from Devon and Dorset interspersed with a handful of original compositions (four by Becki and one by Becki and Nick jointly). Since Nick is known to specialise in the local tunes of his native region, and especially the music of William Andrew of Dartmoor, we might perhaps reasonably assume that several of the traditional pieces played here emanate from that source, although the booklet doesn't tell us; whatever, I don't recall having heard any of them before. Having said that, a small extra clue is provided in the booklet credit, which thanks various people for the pipe tunes and the Corsican tune. As for the original compositions, the attractive set comprising track two has a sly hint of reggae rhythm, while the minor-mode 'Emlyn's Waltz' is supremely stately and the title track is a spirited yet refined piece somewhat in the Balkan/Rumanian idiom.

The whole CD gives a good mix of tempos and moods, in fact. Possibly my favourite track is the 'Trip To Plymouth' set of jigs (track 7), though I also liked the 'Bonny Kate' set (track 4), where Nick and Becki delight in introducing some felicitous syncopation, and the contrasting pair of tunes making up track 5 ('the Corsican Set'?). Throughout, Nick and Becki present to the listener a real sense of playing together and enjoying doing so; their fiddling displays a fine sense of flow with plenty of poise, yet equally prominent is its intrinsic uplifting drive. Even on the faster tunes, they feel no need to dazzle the listener, but are content to proceed at a sensible pace though without ever divesting the music of its energy; on the slower pieces, their measured and unhurried treatment is refreshing. The only potential barrier for the listener is its necessarily restricted instrumental palette, but at least you know exactly what you're getting! Even as a non-fiddle-player I was able to easily appreciate (and revel in) the duo's passionate musicality and distinctive presence.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 69 of The Living Tradition magazine.