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This CD sees Hudson and Sue Swan expanding their musical ideas beyond the confines of their duo work, with the formation of the Hudson Swan Band. Hudson (bouzouki, fiddle and guitar) and Sue (vocals) are joined by Tony Howard (Guitar and vocals), Lindsey Hunt (Piano, whistle and vocals) and Stevie Lawrence (percussion, bouzouki, and whistles).

This is a band with the emphasis decidedly on song, with Hudson's instrumentals providing relief and contrast. Despite Hudson's many years with the Tannahill Weavers, bands like Kentigern, Osin or Pentangle are the more obvious stylistic predecessors.

One of the pleasures of this CD is the choice of material. Traditional styled songs by Jonathan Kelly, Mick Hanly, Hilary James, Ewan MacColl, sit beside those learned from Nic Jones and Jean Redpath.

Hudson's arranging shows him to be as much interested in texture as tune, and his intricate but uncluttered arrangements, provide fitting settings for Sue's jewel of a voice. Sue is one of the best vocalists I have encountered for a while. On tracks such as "Cannily, Cannily" or "The Indian Lass", she is supremely in command, and demonstrates her potential. Occasionally she sounds uncomfortable, when given a part in an arrangement, rather than having it built around her vocal performance. For instance "The Corncrake" works well musically, but Sue's vocals are strained.

Steve Lawrence has developed into one of the most exciting of the new percussionists. His contributions give the band lift and drive. He has not neglected his skills as an accompanist as his evocative low whistle playing on "Collier Laddie" proves.

Tony Howard contributes nicely judged guitar, but his two vocal tracks are at odds with the overall feel of this album. Although fine performances in themselves, they are grafted on, rather than being an integrated part of the band's repertoire.

In Lindsey Hunt the band has a keyboard player who can sympathetically execute Hudson's ideas.

On balance this is an excellent debut album, full of good ideas, from a band prepared to take chances. I expect the next will be something special.


John McCreadie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.