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PETE COE "Long Company" Backshift Music BASHCD45

It's been quite some time since Pete's last solo album ("A Right Song and Dance" back in '89), so is "Long Company" worth the wait?

The basic mix is the same as before - traditional songs and tunes, adapted by Coe, plus some of his own songs, including the opening track, "Bring the New Year In". This was written specifically for the newly formed Ryburn-based Mummers side The Long Company, and is essentially a 'coming-in' song to introduce the characters of the play, and who are illustrated on the CD cover. A good rousing start, with Pete assisted by a substantial body of chorus singers, but the rest is essentially solo Coe. Pete is still known mainly for his melodeon playing but he is also highly skilled on bouzouki, banjo, and Appalachian dulcimer, and all are used to great effect on this album. Three tracks also feature bass balalaika - and you don't see a lot of them about! Other unusual accompaniment appears on Don Bilston's "The Fireman's Song" where his playing is augmented with some extremely effective stepping - it must have had the sound engineer fair tearing his hair out (they used to put cushions under the feet of the old bluesmen)!

"Across the Western Ocean" and "Juniper, Gentle and Rosemary" are both songs that you feel sure you know, but they are unfamiliar arrangements and the words aren't quite as you remembered. It is a fresh look at a familiar subject, Pete likes that. It's a way of getting people to listen to a song again, to view it in a different light and get something more from it - and it's a technique that works well. On a slightly different tack, he does two songs from the repertoire of Sarah Makem, "As I Roved Out" and "I Courted A Wee Girl", again traditional material but here Pete stays very close to the versions sung by Mrs Makem.

Of late, Pete's club sets have lightened-up, and that change is to be found here too. There is Vic Gammon's deliciously wicked guide to "The Kings and Queens of England", and the unaccompanied "The PR Man from Hell" written by Trevor Carter inspired by the antics of a senior manager of Yorkshire Water!

Pete doesn't write to make-up numbers, and there are only three of his own songs on the recording. In addition to the opening track there is "What's It Worth?", a well crafted piece which catalogues the selling-off of assets caused by a bank withdrawing support from a small company, and "None So Steady" which has Pete writing again of his adopted home, the Ryburn valley. It's a natural follow-on to "The Pennine Way" which featured on his last album. Also on that recording was "When the Red Rose Blooms Again" sadly premature - but he's got it right this time with Matt McGinn's anthemic "We'll Have A May Day Then"!

Besides the songs there are two sets of tunes the first of which doesn't really do a lot for me, but the second, "Bill Hall's No. 1 and No. 2" is a grand pair of 'nippy schottiches'.

The sleeve notes (if that's the correct term for CDs) are both comprehensive and interesting, and Pete invariably credits his sources. "Long Company" is a fine, solid piece of work from a mature and committed talent, and yes, I think it has been well worth the wait.

Mel Howley