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Simon Thoumire & David Milligan "The big day in" Foot Stompin CDFSR1713
This CD has this charming instruction on the back cover: File under Celtic/Scottish". Clearly this is aimed at the occasional empty-headed record store assistant; as the listener to this album is in no danger of doubting its provenance. Concertina virtuoso Thoumire, has, of course, a big reputation throughout the British Isles (and beyond). Piano player Milligan is much less well-known. It is an unusual marriage of the two instruments: I had to cudgel my brains to think up the couple of occasions in 38 years of visiting folk clubs and concerts, where I had encountered this combination of instruments.

Is it a marriage made in heaven, or in hell? Probably neither. But, let's put it this way: there is emphatically no need for a Marriage Guidance Counsellor. They clearly BELONG together: and both show a dazzling command of their instruments. Needless to say, it tends to be Thoumire's concertina that is making most of the dashing brush strokes: but Milligan does the vital job of painting in the background hues, and setting the mood with simpatico chords and the occasional authoritative cadenza. Milligan could also be said to provide the glue to hold the duo together.

The album just "flew by", no mean feat in what is a totally instrumental CD. I think this was due in no small measure to the fact that there was MORE than the one instrument. One constantly is made aware of the richer texture that results from the combination. Oddly though, the highlight of the album is a moment when Milligan plays solo. With his self-penned "Corrina's Touch", he scores a bulls-eye and warms the heart. Thoumire's best moment is his moving treatment of his very UN-flashy composition "Forsaken".

Any reservations? Yes. First we could do without "track" 12, which is nine seconds of a false start for Track 13. It is a cock-up that subsides into giggles. Am I a bit po-faced in my objection? Maybe. But we can certainly do without it being listed as a "track" : true the fact that it is only 9 seconds long is clearly stated, but the casual browser in a record store would first spot the fact that 14 tracks are listed. He might think that this is good value (though you and I know that we do not buy music by the square foot!). But he is being conned. He is getting THIRTEEN for the price of 14. (And, who knows? Possibly he would not have minded if the joke was FUNNY.)

And my second "caveat" , is a wish I have, that all instrumentalists would remember that THE HUMAN VOICE is an instrument too. So they don't sing like Caruso? Who cares? I, for one, would have liked the occasional vocal track: even if "vocal" only meant the humming of a Glenn Gould or the "Hot Dawg!" of a Stefan Grossman. Perhaps next time?

Dai Woosnam

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.