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JIMMY LITTLE - How Does It Gan, Again?

JIMMY LITTLE - How Does It Gan, Again?
Hooky Mat Records HMR021

Well, what else could the title be after Jimmy's first CD was called How Does It Gan?, this often being his response to a suggestion to play a named tune! He's an old-fashioned moothie player from the Alnwick area who doesn't use the 'dots' and has picked up his tunes by ear, first from his own family, and then over many years of playing in his native North Northumberland.

This is an excellent and varied CD of 17 tracks, with not a bad one among them, and Jimmy is ably supported by several local musicians, notably Andy Kain (fiddle), Di Jevons (fiddle) and Leonard Brown (piano) and I must say it is lovely to hear a piano player whose aim is purely to support the main player rather than compete with him or her, so well done Leonard!

An inevitable comparison will be made with the music of the 'Shepherds' and indeed there are several classic tunes by Willy Taylor on this CD, such as the four part Nancy Taylor's Reel and the Shining Pool hornpipe, but all played in the leisurely and controlled style of that great player. One of Will Atkinson's favourite waltzes, the Tombigbee is here too, and there are also some lovely slow airs such as Ian Scott's The Long Hill and Mike Bennett's lyrical Northumberland.

Geographically, this is English music, but it is actually part of a regional tradition with much more in common with that of Scotland, hardly surprising when you could nearly 'hoy a stone' over the border from Alnwick. There are some classic Scots tunes like J.B. Milne and the pipe march/jig set, Captain Orr-Ewing/Christie McLeod, and I was much taken by Steven Spence's Spence's Trip to Edinburgh, a lovely composition, and beautifully played.

There are slow airs here, but the majority of the CD is Northumbrian dance music, though laid-back enough to be very pleasant listening, with no madcap and pointless virtuosity - although you can't play like this unless you know exactly what you are doing. Anthony Robb's Hooky Mat Records (what a great name!) are also to be congratulated on such a clean, well-balanced sound presentation.

I did hear, on my last visit to the region, that since Northumberland has been 'discovered' by our southern brothers and sisters that the lovely old town of Alnwick had gone 'a bit posh' - something to do with Harry Potter, it seems? The fact that the Alnwick Accordion Club has now left the town and meets every second Wednesday in the Farriers' Arms in Shilbottle, a nearby former mining village, may confirm this, but it seems from this lovely, sympathetic CD that the Northumbrian musical tradition is safe in the hands of Jimmy Little and his friends.

In reply to your question, Jimmy, it all seems to be gannin' very well to me!

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 112 of The Living Tradition magazine.