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Haystack Records HAYCD010

Alex Cumming and Nicola Beazley are both relatively new graduates from the renowned Newcastle University’s Folk and Traditional Music Degree and are certainly a credit to the course. Across The Water is their first full length CD together and what a tour de force it is! Displaying all the confidence of youth, the musicianship is masterful, accomplished and skilful. That is certainly not intended to be patronising in any way, as I am continually amazed at the musical virtuosity of so many young people embarking on a career in folk music. The production of this CD is superb throughout, from the artwork to the succinct informative sleeve notes, which of course doesn’t amount to a hill of beans without the main course - the music!

There is a very considered balance at work here in the choice of material, which ranges from “tales of drama on the high seas, jealous lovers, sheep shearing and long lost traditional tunes” - what more could you want? Above all, Alex and Nicola have provided a very enjoyable master-class in fine musicianship, which can only leave the listener dumfounded by their talent and skill.

The choice of material also demonstrates a depth of maturity, ranging from Australian ballads to instrumentals researched from old tunes to new material expertly composed by the duo. On balance, if forced to make a choice, I think the instrumental tracks stand out very slightly above the vocal ones. However, as ever, there is always an exception to prove the rule. I have often heard singers massacre the traditional Bold Fisherman, but from the singing perspective, this track stands head and shoulders above the rest. This is the track where everything comes together, from Alex’s lead vocal to the excellent musicianship overall. This song is also an opportunity for Nicola to really come into her own providing a poignant and meaningful harmony and, in my view, the song would be vastly impoverished without her contribution and extra layer. Come on Nicola, lights under bushels spring to mind, let’s hear more from you next time round!

For a first album this is a really exciting CD to be recommended to all - well done both of you!

John Oke Bartlett

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This album was reviewed in Issue 118 of The Living Tradition magazine.