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KEVIN BURKE & CAL SCOTT - Across the Black River

KEVIN BURKE & CAL SCOTT - Across the Black River
Loftus Music LM001

Since the seventies, fiddler Kevin Burke has produced top quality recordings. This one is no exception. Cal Scott is a guitarist whose day job involves film and TV music, but here he shows himself a master of guitar accompaniment.  The guitar is discreet and sensitive throughout, except on the Bluegrass anthem Evening Prayer Blues where Cal comes to the fore and throws in mandolin riffs in honour of Bill Monroe.  Even so, it's a stretch to call this a duet album: it's no less an individual effort than many recent proclaimed solo recordings.  Across the Black River is also the first release on Kevin's shiny new Loftus Music label, a name, which is well out of copyright.

The Surround is a lovely old slip-jig, featuring on a few albums in recent years, but by no means over-recorded. It's paired with The Red Stockings, a composition of Cal's for the duo, which conjures up a strange image: its slightly over-complex first part is outweighed by a cracking second measure.  The Green Fields of Woodford is another old favourite, followed by John Carty's inspired Seanamhac Tube Station.  Paris Nights and The Lighthouse Keeper's Waltz are two more Scott compositions, gentle and atmospheric, evoking sultry boulevards and rolling seascapes.  The first reels appear on track 5, six of them, with a shift into overdrive on Reel of Rio aided by Mike McGoldrick and Johnny B Connolly on flute and box.  Mike and Johnny B pop up on two or three tracks, and Phil Baker plays string bass on five tracks.  Otherwise Across the Black River is Kevin and Cal with no extras.

The late New York fiddler Andy McGann's name seems to be on everyone's lips just now. Here he's the source of the hornpipe Minnie Foster's, which probably started life in Cape Breton as Minnie Foster's Clog.  Kevin follows it with a new composition by Chris Twigg, The Forgotten Chateau, with some of the same Eastern influences as the Freilach, which Kevin recorded on his last solo album. Then it's back to hard-core Irish, with Vincent Broderick's Last Train to Loughrea and the title tune which is Kevin's own, recorded here as a flute and fiddle duet: exquisite.  After Bill Monroe's Evening Prayer Blues come three thoroughly traditional reels, rattled through at a fine pace. The final track is Phil Cunningham's air For Johnny, written in tribute to his late brother who played with Kevin Burke for many years. This solo fiddle version is achingly beautiful, deeply moving, and cries out for one of Johnny Cunningham's quicksilver reels on the end. has a full-length CD-quality download of this track, and of the first track, so you can try before you buy - I think you'll be hooked.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 75 of The Living Tradition magazine.