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ASH PLANT 1985-1995 AshPlant001

This group combines Irish and Danish traditional music on fiddle, flute, accordion and percussion. Of the 21 tracks on this 70 minute CD, only six have vocals. Of these six, three are very well known Irish songs, one is a bluegrassy number, and two are Celtic ballads sung with a Danish accent. The songs are definitely the weak side of the album - for export only, perhaps.

The instrumentals are a bit reel-heavy, with jigs and hornpipes and four sets of Danish dance tunes. The playing is generally very good, with lots of lift and some nice original touches. The guitar and bodhran backing is rhythmic but sensitive, and the whole thing swings along nicely. Most of these tracks would not be out of place on an Irish session album, and some of them are very good indeed. The only unconvincing dance set was "The First of May"/"Transroscommon Airways", which just doesn't work - too tentative or something.

There are two slower instrumental tracks, both of which are very interesting for different reasons. The first, three Danish tunes, starts with a beautiful haunting melody with a real-life storm in the background: a live outdoor recording in torrential rain, which definitely adds atmosphere. The second, "Lord Lovat's Lament" is a Scottish tune usually played as a jaunty march. The story goes that Lord Lovat was chuffed to bits when his first wife died, and lost no time marrying again. Here it's played as a slow air, on solo harp by a guest musician who struggles a bit to slow the tune down.

There are well over a dozen good tracks here, with lots of unusual Irish tunes and several unspellable Danish ones. You'll probably want to programme the others out, but even so you should have the best part of an hour of good music left.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 14 of The Living Tradition magazine.