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JOHN McCUSKER Temple Records COMD2059

In true Battlefield Band tradition, the youngest member of the band has now produced a solo album. Fiddler John McCusker joined the band in his teens to replace Brian McNeill, and this album shows the influence of five years with Battlefield. As well as having other Battlefield members playing on the album, John and producer Robin Morton have given the album a Temple/Battlefield "feel": many of the tunes here will be identifiable. The traditional "Thomson's Dirk / Mulqueen's Reel" set could come from the next Battlefield album, and McCusker's own tune "Brigid's Waltz" is a beautiful piece which is given the full band treatment.

The other side of the coin is that John has brought the influences and skills of other young musicians to bear on this recording. In particular, Simon Thoumire and Ian Carr make significant contributions to the jazzier tracks. However, most of the material here was written by John himself, and is actually quite unusual for a young fiddler: four slow airs and waltzes, and a slow version of "Rosin the Beau". The slow tunes were my favourites, all beautifully done.

There are a few McCusker reels here too, but they didn't grab my attention. There seems to be less fire in the music than was evident on Battlefield's "New Spring" album, or in live performances of tunes like "The Bishop's Son". Somehow, the faster tunes are less distinctive. Maybe the next album will be quite the reverse, and this one will be known as McCusker's magnolia period ...

Production standards are excellent, with good sleeve notes. The artwork emphasises John's contemplative and retiring aspects but reminds us that there is a cheeky, cheerful rogue in there somewhere, even if this doesn't always come through in the music.

Don't get me wrong. I like it, it's very tastefully done with some excellent tunes, especially the slower ones. If you like Battlefield, you'll probably like this. What's more, there's no singing. A bit more fire would have been nice, though.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 13 of The Living Tradition magazine.