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Box On
Focal Music FMCD02

What an astonishing album. The eye-catching, "well hard" sleeve to Box On belies its contents. Here you'll find ten impeccably played tracks, heavily influenced by the Irish tradition, revealing outstanding empathy between Shona Kipling (piano accordion) and Damien O'Kane (tenor banjo & guitar).

The duo's impressive compositions are entirely in keeping with their interpretations of traditional tunes; the music is played with masses of attack. Rhythm and timing are impeccable, the playing is consistently tight and intuitive - fast-paced tunes such as Flighty Girls, The End and The Road to Cashel leap out of your speakers and grip you. Outrageously consummate banjo picking and stunningly empathic accordion are supplemented on occasion by bouzouki, guitar, cello, bass, fiddle and bodhran. At times the music is so big-sounding that you have to remind yourself you're only listening to two or three instruments.

Damien's voice is another of the album's assets - befitting the thoroughly Irish character of the two vocal tracks. The very beautiful melody to The Red Haired Girl demonstrates Shona's outstanding expressive abilities - her playing is exquisite here, brimming with feeling. Derry-born Damien is a graduate of the Newcastle Folk Degree; Shona, from Co. Durham, is still studying there. Makes you wonder what the duo will 'unleash' on an unsuspecting folk circuit once Shona's studies are complete; natural curiosity also makes me wonder what other talent is about to emerge from Newcastle University.

This album is dedicated to Shona's late father Dr. David Kipling, former head doctor for the Boxing Board of Control. His wish was that the duo should not make another album until they 'really had something to say'. They've done just that, with eloquence, energy and passion. Dr. Kipling would be proud. Box on, Shona and Damien!

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 71 of The Living Tradition magazine.