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Ian Hardie & Andy Thorburn - The Spiders Web
IAN HARDIE & ANDY THORBURN - "The Spider's Web" Greentrax CDTRAX152

Quite early on this year I made a fatal error - well foolhardy anyway to say the least. I said in a review that I didn't expect a particular album to be bettered this year (I'll spare their blushes). I should have known better.

This is one of those albums which makes you reach for the gig list half way through the first track to find out where they are playing. There is an abundance of new/original material here - and if you are a real anorak (and not satisfied with the 44 tunes on the album) there's an accompanying tune book available with 80 tunes. I'll settle for the album (particularly as I suspect that most of the tunes are unplayable by mere mortals). Because that's the point here. Little nuances lift these tracks above the norm - by a serious margin. The strathspeys have a more accurate tempo than my quartz watch. The jigs and reels leave me reaching for the smelling salts. The airs make spaghetti al dente of my heart strings. But more than anything else, it's the chemistry between these two seasoned campaigners which makes a difference. How is it possible to make it appear that you are playing to a room full of dancers having a fling, when there are only two of you in the studio (sorry three - Jack Evans is there, peering over the mixing desk and somehow making some sense of order from the pyrotechnics). What it boils down to is that these guys just love their music and enjoy sharing it.

Yeah there are a few wee niggles. The track listing on the sleeve/booklet is a bit mixed up - but I expect the version which hits the shops will have been corrected. The album title on the inside is virtually impossible to read as it is almost the same colour as the background. And I'm no purist, but I would have preferred if the little forays into electronics had been ditched in favour of plain piano keyboards as accompaniment to the fiddle (sorry Andy - the synths don't do a lot for me).

My favourite moment is when a little reel called 'Just a Small One - I Have to Dance' kicks in at the climax of a fine medley. Stunning up tempo flamboyance. But all of it deserves a listen - and I expect most of these gems will appear on playlists across the land this summer. Greentrax hitting the spot again ! No - I'm not making any more predictions this year.

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.