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Private Label RHB001

Listeners already have a good deal for which to thank the Folk Degree course at Newcastle University. We can add this outfit to the list of benefits. The four members of the band met on the course and, using that joint experience as a starting point, have set about re-interpreting folk songs, largely from the North East, but on occasion from much further afield.

I'm always interested in a new version of what must surely be the most perfect of Ewan MacColl's vast canon of songs, Schooldays Over. Did I say perfect? The only thing wrong with it is that it's far too short. That, in fact, would be a suitable finals dissertation: Write four new verses to bring the classic up to date. It might be difficult to summon up mining backgrounds for the extra stanzas in post-industrial Britain, but it is surely worth a try. In the meantime, the RHB has produced a very enjoyable, musicianly piece of work, with Sam Partridge's contribution on flute, whistles and harmonium an obvious stand-out.

Rachel's voice does not always sound like the finished article yet, especially in the total exposure of What A Voice, but there is plenty of time for it to mature. They have some quality experience coming up, with bookings for some big gigs, and this debut gives them a solid base from which to proceed. They are already good value for the tax-payers' money that went towards their student grants and their development this far.

Dave Hadfield

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