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THE TWO DUOS QUARTET 'Half As Happy As We' RUFCD07
Nigel Eaton and Andy Cutting
Panic At The Cafe BEJOCD27

Spot the common factor that gives the excuse for a joint review!

The Two Duos Quartet's offering is a real eclectic mix of sources and sounds. With two accordions in the front-line, the sound is fairly box- based, although the presence of a fiddle and up to two fine guitarists stops the squeezy things from getting out of hand! 7 of the 9 tracks are tune-sets composed or arranged by the members - some bouncy, some more reflective. I particularly liked the French-titled set of reels, Karen Tweed's hauntingly bagpipish "Miss Hanoria McNamara of Ballybunion" and the final track - an O'Carolan "Planxty" that I hadn't heard before - "Madam Maxwell" that draws out the accordion's ability to be haunting and soulful as well as bouncy and perky. Chris Wood throws in a couple of songs - one of his own in traditional style and "Through Lonesome Woods" - an English song in 5/4 that sounds like he got it from Martin Carthy ... which he didn't. An eerie plucked fiddle backdrop to the song makes it even odder - but I've always liked these 5-legged English peculiarities. Verdict? Quartet greater than the sum of its parts? As with Wood/Wilson/Carthy trio - my answer is probably "no", but both are combinations I'd love to hear live and I hope stay sporadically together.

The Eaton/Cutting offering is far more of a "love it or hate it" beast. I love it, but then I've always been a sucker for what is now labelled "early" music. Call me a sad old hippy, but the sound of a hurdy-gurdy parping away has always pleased my ears. This is a collection of fine self-penned tunes, many in "early music" style, although some of it has already escaped into more mainstream folk - Andy Cutting's "Bay Tree Waltz" made, for example, made its way on to the last Poozies CD in slightly funkier form, obviously via the Cutting-Tweed connection. The recording is actually a re-release of a 1993 cassette and it's survived that process. Is it for you? Although Andy Cutting's accordion fills up the sound considerably, it really depends upon whether the sound of a hurdy-gurdy excites you or brings you out in a rash!

Alan Murray

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This album was reviewed in Issue 34 of The Living Tradition magazine.