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ARTISAN ROW - Wild Winds

ARTISAN ROW - Wild Winds
Lola Records LL007

The London based group Artisan Row features some familiar names – best known of them is Karen Ryan, a mainstay of the local traditional session scene, figurehead of The London Lasses and organiser of the annual Return To Camden Town festival. Here she is joined by her husband, Pete Quinn, from Liverpool, himself long established on the London rounds. Flautist, sax player and Listowel native, Elma McElligott, received her formal music education at University College Cork and soon became part of bands like Calando, who toured Germany in 1998 on the Irish Folk Festival tour. The final piece in the jigsaw is singer/guitarist Conor Doherty, himself a songwriter and purveyor of new arrangements of traditional songs.

Together, Artisan Row plays a type of music that could be called “Cosmopolitan Trad” because it’s not four square, traditional music - not by a long shot. This is music that sounds from the ethnic melting pot which was and is London, with various nationalities rubbing shoulders in the workplace as well as in the pub corners and where, musically, shades of jazz, blues and classical meet folk music of the pure drop sort. The title, Artisan Row, is apt as the album conjures up sights of rows of creative artisans all peddling their wares and providing an atmosphere both universal and local.

The opening reels usher in a whistle duet that is subtle and fluid - the piano and guitar floating around - while Paul Rodden’s jig-set fuses banjo and alto sax in an almost Parisian Musette style. The musical heart is an effervescent one where rhythms and nuances intertwine successfully with emigration ballads and original songs in a compellingly commanding yet cool, austere manner. Sleep Now sees Conor Doherty recall James Joyce’s poetic stanzas, while Sam Henry’s collection yielded Monk McClamont’s Farewell to Articlave. These, and the traditional Mary And The Soldier, all get fine edgy vocal readings. The sum total, both aurally and idealistically, is of something fresh and new, and Wild Winds finds an exciting new group in control of their destiny, yet willing to chance new sounds, ideas and inspirations.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 121 of The Living Tradition magazine.