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Davey Arthur - Cut to the Chase
DAVEY ARTHUR & CO "Cut to the Chase" Blue Bowl BLUE31

Is it irreverent of me to wonder whether Davey Arthur is no longer a Furey in the same way that Tommy Makem is no longer a Clancy Brother? Yes, and irrelevant too. The fact is that one removes the packaging, whacks the disc into the hi-fi, and judges the resultant sounds that emanate from the speakers. Consequently the niggling speculation that possibly the only Irish artistes to outsell this guy and his mates are Foster, Allen and Riverdance has to be ignored, and the spirit of the album title (roughly translated as "stop beating about the bush") must be adopted.

A refreshing facet of this album is that "& Co." does not signify important frontman with occasional flashy accompanists, but rather a well-balanced mix of splendid acoustic players performing careful arrangements which put the music first and the ego nowhere. Instantly recognisable among the cast list are Brian McNeill who not only played, mixed and produced, but even co-wrote "A Small Drop on the Side" (a concise guide to Irish watering-holes) and Terry Woods, perhaps the only man in the world who could've survived the journey from Steeleye Span and The Pogues without developing the bends. The rest are less famous (in this household, anyway), but equally proficient. The tune sets are sheer delight, whether heads down, no-nonsense trad. reels or slower, more reflective self-penned pieces. There are self-penned songs too - as well as the Small Drop already imbibed, there is "When Another Domino Falls", a valiant attempt at killing four birds with one stone, and "She Loves to Dance", a more lightweight offering, and none the worse for that. The traditional ballad "A Nobleman's Wedding" and Ivan Drever's "A Song for Yesterday" I find overly sentimental for my taste - perhaps I don't drink enough any more!

With eleven tracks and a reprise, the whole thing hangs together well, with lashings of joy and sorrow and ensemble playing to die for.

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 25 of The Living Tradition magazine.